Social Restaurant Group has welcomed yet another restaurant in Clarendon, Bar Bao.
Taking over the prime corner space where Mad Rose Tavern once resided on the corner of Clarendon and Washington Blvd, Bar Bao proclaims that “you have never tasted Asian Cuisine like this before”.
Inside you’ll feel like you stepped into a LA Graffiti Tour with the walls rocking murals created by local graffiti artists Mike Pacheco and Rodrigo Pradel.
Bar Bao has two bars including an outside patio with plenty of seating for happy hours and dinner. The rear bar is the best location. It allows you to sit outside while getting fresh cool air conditioning that’s blowing from inside.
The restaurant offers an Asian fusion menu inspired by Taiwanese, Korean and Laotian street food.
I figured waiting a month is enough time to allow a newly opened restaurant to work out its kinks before giving it a try. My friend and I arrived around 7 pm on a Saturday and were immediately seated by a friendly hostess. We were approached immediately by our waitress Alex who recommended to us her favorite items on the menu.
After perusing their interesting menu, we ordered: The White Dragon Cocktail, Fried Avocado and Tamarind Shrimp Bao, Steamed Chicken Dumplings, Grilled Salmon, Crispy Beef and we also Barbao’s Fried Chicken.
The White Dragon cocktail came out first and it was a good mix of vodka, honey, coconut milk and schechuan curry – not too sweet and with enough kick to accentuate the alcohol.
Moments later, our starters arrived. I have never had fried avocado before and these bao bums did not disappoint. They offered a generous amount of avocado inside soft buns. My friend and I, however, did not agree on the Tamarind Shrimp Bao. I have definitely tasted better shrimp, while my friend preferred the Shrimp Buns over the Avocado Buns.
The Chicken Dumplings were good, but not memorable. They tasted typical.
My friend ordered the Grilled Salmon and it was the best out of all the entrees. The fish was served with rice and steamed bok choy covered with pineapple and oyster sauce. The salmon was soft and well cooked, and it’s smoky taste went perfectly with the pineapple sauce.
My initial entree was Bar Bao’s Fried Chicken with sweet and sour cilantro sauce. This plate didn’t last too long in front of me. It was a huge chunk of chicken that simply had a weird flavor to it. What the menu didn’t mention is that it came with fries. While it wasn’t necessarily a bad combo, it wasn’t exactly what you’d expect in an Asian fusion restaurant.
It appeared the manager noticed my disapproval of the chicken as he immediately approached our table and kindly offered to replace my entree for something else.
Second time around, I went for the crispy beef which came with fried noodles and roasted peppers in ginger sauce. The beef was chewy and flavorful, but I wasn’t a big fan of the fried noodles as they soaked in all the sauce and simply tasted soggy.
I appreciated both our waitress and manager’s attention to making our dinner experience go by smoothly, as well as their interest in what I didn’t like with the food so they could pass it on to the chef. It’s service like that that makes for loyal customers!