Sunday, February 21, 2010

Bao Noodles - Brunch Vietnamese-Style

It was back in July that Lisa and I tried Bao Noodles - the Vietnamese bistro-esque restaurant in Murray Hill.  We enjoyed our experience so much that when I was asked back to try the new brunch menu, I gladly accepted.  This time my friend Katie accompanied me and for the first time in our lives, we tried Vietnamese brunch food.  In one simple word, YUM!

Drinks - Katie and I both started with Bao Bellinis, a fun twist on a traditional version, this one including peach puree, citrus vodka and golden star tea.  It was really fruity and more interesting than a regular bellini - the vodka made it stiffer for sure yet it went down
easy without the sting of carbonation.

I also asked for coffee, expecting a regular cup of joe but instead got Vietnamese coffee.  Not sure about what that entailed, I asked about its contents.  Well for starters it's a lot stronger than regular coffee and more espresso-like.  Another point of differentiation is that it's served with condensed milk on the bottom - therefore not needing sugar.  What you do is stir, stir, stir quickly with your long spoon and watch the coffee change color from almost black to cappuccino brown.  One sip and we were hooked - it was a sweet, potent liquid that commanded attention.

Vietnamese Congee - Our first bites consisted of this traditional Vietnamese delight, which is essentially porridge topped with protein.  We tried two kinds of congee - one with pork, chicken and duck and the other with squid, crab and shrimp.  I liked the meat version better, especially since the meat was really tender and buttery.  The sticky rice that rested on the bottom of the bowl was almost soupy and made me think of oatmeal on crack.  A side of deep fry bread rounded out the dish, and it was especially wonderful to dip into the rice and  meat.  If you want to try something totally out of the norm for brunch, this is it.

Vietnamese Breakfast Roll - When I heard this was one of their most popular items and when Katie spied someone else eating it (and commenting how great it was) I had to have it.  What it was essentially was a Vietnamese-style sandwich (banh mi) with panko crusted pork and a fried egg on top.  The pork was excellent - crunchy on the outside but tender and spicy on the inside.  It definitely gave you that much needed jolt and tons of protein to get you through the day.  I enjoyed the excellent quality bread, which did a good job at holding its own next to the hefty contents of the sandwich.  The only disappointment was the egg, as it was half runny and half firm - not fried or poached, just something in between.  I ended up taking it off and enjoying the pork by itself.

Vietnamese Omelette - Although I didn't try this, Katie said she really liked it.  Consisting of vegetables and a side of yucca fries, it seemed to fill her up.  She commented on how hearty it was and also about its unique Asian flavoring.  It's not your ordinary omelette, that's for sure.

Service and Cost:
Just like last time, the service was really great, with friendly, conscientious staff who cares about pleasing customers.  We even got to chat with one of the owners, Chris who gave us some inside scoop about the food and about how he got into this business.  His love and enthusiasm for what he does shows and seems to rub off on the customers - there were quite a lot of loyal patrons enjoying brunch on this cold, Saturday afternoon.

Costs are very reasonable and especially for brunch.  You can take advantage of their $9.95 brunch special with an entree and a morning cocktail.

3 Mmmms

Bao Noodles - 391 2nd Avenue, New York NY 10010
6 Train to 23rd Street

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