BAO on Beverly... they got me with their Groupon.
We're going tonight for dinner. Yes, dim sum for dinner. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
I've reviewed the existing threads-- there are basically a couple of guys who sing the praises of BAO for being "best west of downtown", but there's very little practical info about the best dishes to order. (There's more about what *not* to order)
The only *specific* recommendations I've seen are the crispy fish cakes and crispy crab balls. (Apparently they've got a crack frychef)
Anything else notable and consistent here?
I was probably one of the ones singing the praises last year, but apparently they went through a management (and perhaps a kitchen staff) shake-up a little bit ago, and I haven't been since to see what's changed or if quality has gone down. Having a deal on Groupon, while not a guarantee that they've gone downhill, isn't a great sign... :-(
Returned from dinner.
Highlights-- the "Hainan Chicken" was indeed delicious. Inexplicably not served on rice, but moist and surprisingly flavorful.
Xiaolongbao were served in those little foil cups. Gummy and no soup. The flavoring of the pork filling was fine. Served with the requisite shredded ginger, but the vinegar at the table was white(!) No spoons provided to help manage.
Spicy shrimp dumplings: there were supposedly 3 of them, but they were served in a too-small steamer basket and the extremely thick rice paper wrappers all stuck together. The only way to eat them was to massacre them and eat them in bits. The filling was nicely seasoned, mildly spicy.
Crispy shrimp and crab balls-- really nice. Golf ball sized spheres. The coating was very crispy and properly fried with no excess grease. Super large flaky breading, almost like corn flakes. Crunch crunch. Interior mostly shrimp; nary a whisper of crab. Chewy texture-- reminded me of thai style shrimp cakes at Sanamluang, but their breading is standard. I love the huge crispy flakes. Served with a sweet and spicy orange sauce (also very similar to Sanamluang)
Crispy fish cakes-- The interior texture of the fish cake was tender and moist, entirely different from the shrimp/crab ball. More delicate, softer. Sadly the exterior was overfried and greasy. Served with the same sauce as the shrimp ball.
Stir fried green beans w/ garlic and sesame seeds-- very nice preparation of this dish. They didn't have the nice wrinkly outer texture from the deep frying that a real Chinese restaurant would do, but the beans were crisp-tender and well seasoned.
We ordered a few other dishes-- chicken stuffed mushrooms (odd for a Chinese restaurant, and weirdly chewy) and the shrimp stuffed eggplant, which was ok. Last was the crispy egg tofu which was not crispy at all, but has a really nice silky, and even somewhat slightly liquidy interior that I kind of liked.
With 3 beers the tab came to $76 before tip. 4 people left satisfied. Expensive for dim sum, but what the hell. It's on Beverly, and it really wasn't as bad as I expected. That Hainan Chicken is really good-- not traditional, but I'd go back for that.