163 Keefer Street
T: 604 688 0876
Brief Description: A funky, Chinatown-based restaurant offering non-traditional Chinese fare in tapas style. Bao Bei appeals to those who aren’t necessarily looking for an authentic Chinese experience but more of a modern, up-market version of that experience. Prices are between $4 (for small “schnacks”) but most are around the $14 mark.
It has been some time since I was last at Bao Bei but after tonight’s dinner I am wondering why I had left it so long. The flavours were popping tonight, the serving sizes were spot on, and the price (without drinks) was an affordable $43. One of my previous complaints about Bao Bei was the cost of their simple fried rice dish. At $17 a bowl I had a hard time justifying it, even though it was delicious. Well, I’m happy to report that the price (and size) of the fried rice has come down to a reasonable $12. This makes me much happier as the decrease aligns it with the cost of most of the other menu items (understandably, lamb and salmon are slightly more expensive).
The shao bing was well-rounded with a lot of flavour from the cumin lamb, punctuated with pickled onions and the fiery heat of the salted chillies. The seasonal fried rice sounded unusual (with iceberg lettuce and prosciutto) but the end result was actually very good but made even better by the addition of the chilli oil condiment available. The truffled pork dumplings were warming, with a light splash (more like an aroma) of truffle oil, and the mantou buns were soft, and spongey with just the right amount of pork belly (cubes rather than a big slab).
For a Tuesday night, the restaurant was steady and they still aren’t taking reservations in advance so either show up on a weeknight or plan for a bit of wait. Thankfully, there are now a few bars in the area where you can whet your appetite before waiting for a table to become free (I recommend The Keefer or The Union).