We were invited to Bao Noodles 391 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10010 by their publicist, to a special tasting of some new menu items. We gave fair warning that the review would be honest, and I hope they noticed our candid style before inviting us. We got a nice window seat, where we still got some light from outside, but most of the place is pretty dark, similar to a dive bar. We were warmly greeted by the owner, Chris Johnson, who is a sake sommelier. He seemed to be really fond of  Vietnamese cuisine and guided us through the meal.

The Edamame Salad arrived first, a simple and well seasoned mix of soy beans, red onion, and jicama. We found ourselves just eating the soybeans though because it’s hard to pick it up all together with chopsticks.

Edamame Salad

Lon ordered a Banana cocktail made with banana rum. It’s a beautiful drink garnished with fresh banana and partially rimmed with Vietnamese spices. It’s wonderfully balanced, tasting fresh and natural. Banana is a risky flavor that could take a turn for the worst and taste like nail polish, but this one shined, winning best of the evening.

Banana cocktail

The Sesame Cracker is served with three accompaniments.We enjoyed the Malanga, very smooth and soft. The Pickled Eggplant did not taste like eggplant at all, but it was a fruity and refreshing salsa. The curry stuff was a little too soupy and we’re not sure what the soft stuff floating in it was.

Sesame Cracker with Three Accompaniments Malanga, pickled eggplant, curry soup

The sesame cracker, textured like shrimp chips, had no flavor on it’s own. It was just a delivery mechanism for the accompaniments. Overall the idea was exciting at first but we lost interest very quickly.

Sesame Cracker

The Shrimp Paste Noodle Soup is the kind of dish I could easily love, but here the noodles were too soft and the dried bamboo shoot pieces too bitter. I brought that to Chris’ attention who said it wasn’t meant to be that bitter, but the chef did want some bitter in there. The Shrimp Paste reminds me of a Chinese Fish Paste soup called Ro Gung.

Shrimp Paste Noodle Soup

The Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab didn’t quite have that salt and pepper taste. They were meaty for little crabs but also incredibly oily.

Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crab

The Pan Roasted Quail was over-cooked and the sauce was like salty teriyaki sauce, no better than bottled stuff.

Pan Roasted Quail  2

Lon really enjoyed the Durian Ice Cream though. It did actually taste like durian but it’s something you have to like and I’m not so into it.

Durian Ice Cream

The Yucca Waffle is rather hard and crunchy, one side being a bit too burnt. It’s topped with a very strong Jasmine Tea Ice Cream. I can’t believe I’m saying so but it was too strong.

Yucca Waffle

The prices here are pretty low, but if you want Vietnamese food, you can get way cheaper. Overall, we didn’t like the food at all but maybe I’d come by for a drink.

posted by jessica at 11:37 AM Filed under Avoid Like the Plague, Restaurants. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.