Bits but no bubbles: first meal at Bo Laksa part deux
I'm not usually one to visit restaurants during soft openings but I couldn't resist the chance to try more of Bo's great fare in a sitdowny environment. The SO and I swung by early tonight, around 6:30, to a quiet room. Bo came out and we had a wee chat. He recommended the pork belly curry, one of his new dishes, and then we had to try the pad thai as that is only on his take out menu at the store and we hadn't been able to try it, living well outside delivery range. Of course we had to have a small roti canai as well. And we shared a milk tea too (they are very large).
The pork belly was lovely and tender, with lots of flavour. The curry was rich and ruddy, with that slight "grindiness" and body that I love, almost like there are ground almonds or something in it. The achar that came on the side was excellent, green and fresh with lots of chili heat. Even the stir fried veggies were done really well, still al dente and subtly flavoured. Ben of Chowtimes would be scooping up the curry sauce on his rice :-). The dish was $8.75.
Pad thai was one of the better ones I've had. No evil ketchup, a nice kiss of tamarind (I wouldn't mind even a little more), plump shrimp, and interesting ingredients like pickled turnip and banana blossoms for extra crunch and texture. The noodles were good if slightly clumpy in spots. This was $7.50.
We were already fans of the roti which we really didn't need, but when has that ever stopped me? Next time I will order it with (sigh) condensed milk. Both of us were stuffed by the time we left $26 later. A big group of nine were just coming in for a birthday celebration and they nearly filled up the place which only seats about 15.
It is a fairly utilitarian room but tidy. One of the two servers seeming to be confused and harried though there wasn't any apparent reason to be (nerves, maybe?). The food is all served in disposable containers with plastic cutlery and tossable chopsticks to emulate street food, which makes sharing a bit more difficult. I am okay with this but my inner West Coast granola self hopes that one day they will be compostable/recyclable :-).
Bo was sold out of his three Burmese dishes (tea leaf salad, ginger salad and mohingar) tonight soI can't wait for the all-Burmese Chowdown which Fernando is arranging for Saturday, August 28. I think Bo may be including a special fish head curry made from fish he is importing from Burma -- woohoo!
Couple of pix below with I surmise more to come from fmed, who was there an hour or so after us :-).
PS They have excellent air conditioning... 2546 East Hastings just east of Nanaimo
Hi grayelf, I'm going there next week. It will be my first time ever in BLK. (shame on me. :(. Anyway, i will be getting the laksa and the roti. The laksa will be courtesy of the Chowtimes coupon. (thanks Ben and Bo.) Aside from these two and the tea salad, what would be another must order dish in BLK? Its a bit far from Richmond where I live so I may not visit as often as I wanted.
Just a word of caution if you are doing takeout: the roti canai has a very brief half life so you might want to eat that there. The pork belly would be fine the next day (maybe even better; you know how curry can be). Tea salad should hold up pretty well if you get it unmixed -- I think Bo does that regularly for takeout at his other location. 50/50 on the laksa -- IIRC it comes separate from the broth, but I dunno how the noodles will be after travel.
There is definitely some inexperience in the front of house staff there. As you say, the food is great. Also - I'm not in agreement with Bo's choice to use disposable implements. I do understand where he is coming from with his decision to do that. This food deserves to be served on real plates!
We've made it back to BLK BB twice since our soft-opening visit at the end of July, both times with large groups so we've been able to sample a large swath of the menu.
FISH CAKE — very good, better with the darker sauce we had the first time
SHRIMP CAKE — not as good as the fish cake, as above re sauce
ROTI CANAI — love this, but not so much the sauce it comes with (I use it to dip in soups etc instead)
SATAY CHICKEN — moist and tasty, with a not-too-sweet peanut sauce; sticky rice is good
SATAY BEEF — a little dry for me
LAKSA – winner and still champeen for me in town, top notch and even better out of a real bowl!
MOHINGAR – my favourite of the versions I've tried, not too fishy
PAD THAI — the best of this dish I've had in town, which is unfairly damning it with faint praise; especially love the addition of banana flowers and preserved turnip for extra flavour and crunch
MEE GORENG — this was fine, though a bit dull, but then I think that about all mee goreng -- not a fan of kecap manis :-)
PINEAPPLE FRIED RICE -- not bad but let down a bit by a too-tart pineapple; it's a little one note
THAI BASIL CHICKEN FRIED RICE – we got this by accident one night when we ordered in a wild frenzy and it turned out to be the hit of the dinner; very tasty indeed
DRUNKEN BEEF — good flavours but too dry
BEEF RENDANG — same comment as for drunken beef
Marinated beef slowly cooked with coconuts gravy and Bo’s special spice, served with rice.
BUTTER CHICKEN — this was just okay; still searching for a great butter chicken in Vancouver
PORK CURRY -- this is a winner for sure, with the fat in the pork belly keeping it moist
TOM YAM — another winner, top of my list for Thai hot and sour soup here (we had the shrimp)
LAHPET THOKE — I love this salad, even when it is not well made, and that is not the case here. Bo's is the front runner of the tea leaf salads I've tried (the rest were in San Francisco). A unique flavour combination, great for sharing. Eat it with rice and preferably for lunch as it packs a serious caffeine whallop.
PAPAYA SALAD — a solid version, nice and refreshing
PICKLE MANGO SALAD — second only to the tea leaf salad in my book, another unique flavour combo, this is mango like I've never seen/tasted it before -- brined and almost like olived as mentioned upthread
Now if I could just get Bo to add his butter rice (served at our recent Burmese chowdown) to the menu I'd be very content. Oh and if he would get larger serviettes too, man they are small :-).
Like many (SE) Asian restos, this is a good place to go with a few more people so you can try more tastes and up the value. So very glad it is here...
Photos left to right:
Pad thai (on a real plate!)
Laphet thoke (tea leaf salad)
Tom yam goong
Fish cakes with darker sauce (preferred)
Bill for 9.5 diners (with leftovers): $14 each before tip with 3 drinks
Pickled mango salad
Shrimp cake with lighter sauce
Thai basil chicken fried rice
Bill for 8 diners (without leftovers): under $14 each before tip with 5 drinks
Hit BLKBB with another Hound and her SO plus two friends on September 9, which was the 1 year anniversary of the original BLK near Joyce. Bo had planned to make Burmese biryani and offer it for $6 but they were too busy. He is going to do it within the next week and will put it on their website and/or tweet it.
He had a wheat noodle salad as the lunch special today and whipped us up a portion even though the special was over. I liked it very much. It reminded me of potato salad, but with noodles and lots of zippy chile heat. It was very creamy due, according to Tiffanie, to the addition of chick pea powder. It also had Shan province egg tofu. One of our diners felt it was too tangy. I had tastes of the papaya salad, the beef rendang and the pork curry which were all very good, with the beef being more tender than the first time I tried it.
We also enjoyed some Burmese tea and a complimentary piece each of coconut agar agar jelly with coconut milk ladled over top. This latter was a little salty/savoury and really complemented the sweetness of the jelly. Bo is now offering a variety of Burmese and Asian desserts, including black sticky rice and durian cake. For $15 tax and tip in with leftovers this was once again a great value.
He is also working on a new menu, changing out some items for new ones, though of course keeping the must haves like tealeaf salad, which was great as usual that night. And he's planning a thali style, minimum four person dinner for $30 which sounds great.
We hit up Bo for some dessert after the Chowtimes dinner at Luda up the street in late October. The standout for me was the durian cornmeal dessert pictured below. For some reason (cause he's Bo?), we got a complimentary order of the squid salad which I had neglected to try. It is excellent, creamy but spring squid bits in a bright, citrusy, spicy dressing.
BLK's facebook page says there's a weekend special: spicy tomato chili crab (over 1.5 lb) for $19.99. If you want it, you have to reserve.