I’ve wanted to go to Bao Bao since they opened not that long ago and the main reason for my desire to visit was that I love dumplings. Pork, chicken, red fire ants, whatever – just put properly seasoned stuff together, encapsulate it in a doughy wrapper, feed it to me with some sort of sauce, and I’m like a chipmunk in a field full of acorns. And as such, it wasn’t any surprise to my wife that I kept begging her to get to Portland’s new dumpling purveyor.
When entering the restaurant, I immediately thought that it looked very plain, though that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The floor was bare and there were a bunch of tables in there along with the bar, but there wasn’t anything in particular that stood out. We were there for a very early dinner so it wasn’t too busy, but there was a small crowd eating and drinking. We decided to sit at the bar. Why not?
A bartender gave us menus which we immediately perused. One page was food and the rest were beer, wine, and cocktails. While they had some signature drinks which sounded really interesting – Sake-tini anyone? – I just wasn’t feeling a beverage other than water that night. My wife settled on a chardonnay and explained how boring I was while I sipped my delicious water and we both started searching for food.
The food menu was short, consisting of a few cold items, a few hot items – I wasn’t one of them, and a bunch of dumpling varieties. Dumplings were available boiled or pan fried. I was pretty much focused on dumplings and not really feeling anything else. I figured that’s what I should be eating at a dumpling house. When the bartender came to take our orders, I put in a request for the boiled Kung Pau Chicken dumplings while my wife ordered up the Asian Slaw with red cabbage, pea pods, carrots, shallots, and peanuts and some boiled Cashew Chicken dumplings.
We sipped our water and wine for a little while before my wife’s slaw showed up. She chowed down on it and really seemed to like it. I passed on trying it as I was completely dumpling-focused. As the slaw was about to completely disappear, our little meat purses came out. Mrs. Portlandeater’s came with a sauce while mine did not. I asked the bartender about the three sauces that were set at the bar. There was the obligatory soy sauce and also some black vinegar which was to be added to the soy in order to pump it up. Last was the chili sauce for those who wanted fire in their dumplings.
I took the little sauce dish I was provided and added some soy and a solid helping of black vinegar to it. I also dropped some of the chili sauce on a plate. Then, with my magical dumpling eating routine, I tried a half dumpling plain. It was really excellent. The sweet, slightly spicy dumpling featured a nice peanut crunch. The outside was doughy, adding to the perfect texture. The seasoning was great and the chicken was plentiful. These were winners. I tried them with the soy and vinegar and it was a superb addition. The chili sauce was great too, though quite hot, so I used it sparingly. My wife’s dumplings were more of the same, though I preferred mine by a narrow margin.
When we were done, we debated ordering more or going somewhere else for a full meal. The dumplings were good though, so we decided to stay. I ordered the boiled Pork Mapo Dofu which the bartender told me were spicy pork and tofu. My wife went with more of the cashew chicken, but this time she wanted them fried. We waited for our additional food while discussing parodies of parodies of B-movie parodies from the 1950’s in addition to singing horror movie theme songs. The food came while we were “Ah”-ing the Children of the Corn theme.
It was time to dig in and I tried my Pork Mapo Dofu, which I really enjoyed saying. Pork Mapo Dofu. Pork Mapo Dofu. Pork Mapo Dofu. When I got to actually eating the Pork Mapo Dofu and not just saying it’s name, I dumped it in my Pork Mapo Dofu hole. The Pork Mapo Dofu dumpling was indeed spicy with strong overall tastiness. I ate the Pork Mapo Dofu with the sauces and without. I also tried my wife’s fried dumplings. They were fried on one side and very good, but for my money, the texture of the boiled ones was best. It didn’t take long before my mouth was on fire from the Pork Mapo Dofu dumplings and just a little too much chili sauce.
After all was said and eaten, were quite pleased. Our food came to 46 bucks with tax and tip. It seemed quite reasonable for 24 dumplings, a slaw, and a glass of wine. I found the Kung Pau the most tasty, but all of our food was very good. I definitely recommend Bao Bao if you love dumplings. They’ve got many options and they know how do make ’em. You may not want to go if you’re looking for lots of different types of food or a big meal, but if you’re just looking for something delicious, go and order the little pods of love to your heart’s content. Pork Mapo Dofu.
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