i've finally found saigon in seattle.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Robert... so hipster.. on our way to Ba Bar
After months of "Oh my gosh, Amanda and Robert.. you two must try Ba Bar." from a dear friend, Jerry and then most recently, a fellow blogger-friend, Mollie, raved about it being her favorite pho place... Robert and I finally set a dinner date for this little gem. This past Sunday, we made our way to Ba Bar, located right behind Seattle U on 12th and Barclay. It's far from the hustle and bustle of Cap Hill's main street Broadway and rowdy bars; further down the road where it's a bit more quiet and calm - just the way I like it.

love the stamp seal on the napkins - adds an extra personal touch
Upon arrival, I noticed three things: (1) The cute older man at the front of the restaurant making homemade banh cuon just like how my grandma used to make them at home. Also, he was using a wooden steamer similar to those that I had seen in Saigon when I visited five years ago. (2) I could smell a strong aroma of pho at the door (obvi, a good sign) (3) the hipster-chic vibe and ambience of the restaurant - loved the wood decor.

soo many choices.. how were we supposed to decide?
I wanted to eat everything on the menu. the end. 

But obviously, that was not possible nor could my tummy handle all of that yummy... All of the dishes reminded me of comfort foods that my mother cooked when I was at home. Some of you may know this already, but for those who don't, I was raised "very Asian" aka I was raised in a traditional Vietnamese household. I spoke Vietnamese as my first language (learned English while watching Sesame Street), and grew up on pho, rice and goi cuon. My roots are very strong, and I hold my heritage very close and dear to my heart. As a result, to go to a Vietnamese restaurant and to have a bowl of pho means so much more to me than a meal. It's an experience - reminding me of where my family comes from, who I am and my culture. That's why I'm so picky when it comes to pho places... it has to be just right... Not going to lie, I was a bit nervous to try Ba Bar... but believe me.. not disappointed at all. It hit home for me.
Ba Bar is officially my new favorite Seattle pho place!
typical... Robert's on his phone tweeting.. same as me, and then he instagram's me...

So what did we order? Well, I couldn't resist the banh cuon... I mean they were made fresh to order. My tummy said "must eat." So we ordered a plate of Bánh Cuốn for our appetizer (delicately wrapped steamed rice batter filled with Carlton Farms ground pork, wood ear mushrooms and minced shallots; fried onions sprinkled on top; served with cha lau thinly sliced Vietnamese sausage, bean sprouts, basil, cucumber and nuoc mam fish sauce). Our waitress informed us that these were a weekend special, since the older man out front (Mr. Chau -  Bánh cuốn Master) only visits on Saturdays and Sundays to make them. What a treat for us first-timers!!

banh cuon, $9 per plate - 4 rolls
For the main course, we each ordered a bowl of Phở Tai Oxtail, made with Painted Hills Farm oxtail, eye round and vermicelli rice noodles. Served with bean sprouts, lime, a jalapeno slice and a dipping dish of hoisin and siracha sauce. Robert got his pho with a side of mushrooms (health freak, haha) and of course, I went for the beef tendon (so Asian).

On the website, Ba Bar says "life's too short for five dollar pho." They pride themselves for serving fresh oxtail, eye of round and brisket from Painted Hills Farm. "Sure it costs twice as much, but it tastes five times as good." Yes, the broth and the quality of the pho is healthy, good-for-you and does not leave your mouth dry and starchy like other pho restaurants that use MSG in their cooking. It's worth the extra buck or two.. you're definitely getting more bang for what you pay here.

Oh and almost forgot, one of the best highlights of this meal was the round of Ricky Rickys from Ricky, himself -- thanks for the drinkies!! (Ricky Rickys, $10 - Cachaca lime, coconut juice and ginger beer)

Look at how yummy it is! Oh and it's a big bowl, too. Just an FYI - this is one large serving of pho.
Phở Tai Oxtail, $12 - add mushrooms, beef ball or tendon for $2 
I can't tell whether he was mad or happy that I took this picture.. but what I do know is that he really enjoyed his pho.
For dessert, there was an array of traditional Vietnamese specialities, French-fusion inspired dishes and of course simple palette-cleansers. The coconut flan piqued my interest, but unfortunately, I was too stuffed. That will be on my to-do list for next time. Robert settled on a salted caramel macarone. I stole a bite, and it was absolutely delicious. A slight crunch on the outside and a chewy center - just the way they're supposed to be. 

Macarones for dessert. YUM. 
Best part of the night? Meeting this guy right here... He is awesome, reminds me of my grandpa and is just so sweet. Didn't even mind getting his picture taken and posed for an "in action" snapshot. 

Look at Mr. Chau go.. making awesome banh cuon.
There he is holding the delicate steamed rice wrapper!
Also, I totes chatted with him in Vietnamese to show my deep appreciation for the awesomeness that he was serving. His laugh, our small exchange of words in our native tongue and the true authentic meal I shared with one of my best friends -- made. my. whole. day.

Cảm ơn thanks Ba Bar for a great evening - I'll be visiting again, very soon.

1 comment:

  1. oh my gosh that looks so good!
    i have yet to find a good vietnamese restaurant here and it absolutely kills my soul! Must try this place when I get back!


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