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A Dinner at Ba Ren (long)


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A Dinner at Ba Ren (long)

e.d. | Jan 21, 2005 11:39 AM

Since so many of our regular posters were at the chowhound feast at Ba Ren, no one (at least since KirkK’s original posts) has actually written up a review of the place. So I thought that maybe some other folks might want to see what to expect if they went there.

Last weekend I was excited by the opportunity to return to Ba Ren, the first time I would be back with friends, so I could sample a variety of the dishes. Luckily the night before, I got together with KirkK to eat some wonderful fresh sushi at Sammy Sushi next to Boo Cho. Over the sakes and fish, I was able to get help planning a menu as I had forgotten the names of many of the dishes that we’d sampled at the feast – one of the problems sharing a dozen dishes with a dozen people is that one only gets a few tastes of each and the food memories tend to blend together just like the sauces on the plate.

Anyway, the next night, four of us arrived at Ba Ren and after discussing options ended up having the following dishes:

For appetizer, I wanted beef and tendon (husband and wife) but the nice hostess suggested a 3 item combo, adding pig ear and seaweed. With some reluctance we agreed, but it made a great range of tastes and textures. The beef and tendon made our mouths tingle with Sichuan peppercorn, and the mellow pig ear and crunchy seaweed were nice contrasts.

The first main course dish that arrived was fish boiled in spicy sauce. The tender fish contrasted with the crunchy cabbage, and the sauce was spicy as advertised.

Then came chicken with pickled peppers. A totally different flavor, not quite as spicy, with chicken, zucchini, and ‘shrooms along with the fiery red pickled peppers. Very good.

The fish flavored eggplant, which had been one of my favorite dishes at the chowhound feast, was listed on the menu as a casserole, and it was a large portion of savory, smoky, spicy eggplant strips, as good an eggplant dish as I’ve ever eaten.

Then the waitperson brought over a large dish covered with pads of deep-fried crunchy rice crisps and poured three treasures (chicken, squid, and sea cucumber) with veggies and sauce over the pads as they sizzled. The relative lack of hot spice provided a nice contrast to the other dishes. And the range of textures of three treasure rice crisp is wonderful. Each of the meats has a different mouthfeel, but also the dish had crunchy black fungus, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, and other veggies. What’s more, as the sauce and rice crisps interact, the rice becomes softer, so the dish’s textures as a whole change while it is being eaten.

The final course was homestead tofu, something that we had not had at the feast. It was very good. The tofu had been fried and then stir-fried with shiitakes and veggies. We were so full when the dish arrived we doubted we could finish. But soon the tofu and the remains of the other courses had all disappeared and, after paying the $74 check (we also had 7 Tsingtaus) and leaving a tip, we waddled out with huge smiles on our faces. It was an outstanding meal.


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