Monthly Archives: August 2016

Famous Bao, Berkeley

Famous Bao
2431 Durant Ave Suite A
Berkeley, CA 94704

Given the preponderance of Cantonese food in the Bay Area, it’s often exciting when a non-Cantonese Chinese restaurant pops up in the city or East Bay. This is especially true when the restaurant has the potential to be really good and more authentic than a Cantonese run place that masquerades as some other kind of Chinese cuisine.

Thus, when Famous Bao opened a couple months ago, there was some cautious optimism. This was the first Shaanxi style restaurant in the East Bay, the brainchild of a UC Berkeley alum at a location just south of the Cal campus. As a bonus, one of the chefs at the restaurant is the restaurateur’s own dad, who is a former chef at the acclaimed Z&Y in San Francisco. And as more and more people ate their, the cautious optimism turned into excitement with the constant stream of international students from China patronizing the place. Finally, Luke Tsai of the East Bay Express wrote a very positive review of the place that was published a couple weeks ago.

After reading the review, my aunt and I decided to give Famous Bao a try. So after a commercial communal kitchen open house we went to last Sunday, we headed up to Berkeley to see if Famous Bao matched to the hype. After waiting about 10 minutes in line we ordered the following:

Bao's Famous Stewed Oxtail Iron Pot

Bao’s Famous Stewed Oxtail Iron Pot

  • Bao’s Famous Stewed Oxtail Iron Pot – The iron pot came first with a few stewed oxtails and a surprising amount of veggies heated with a slightly spicy sauce in an iron pot. All the ingredients mixed well together for a very flavorful and slightly spicy dry pot. The dish comes with a bowl of steamed rice. While it was one of the most expensive dishes at around $11, it was worth every penny. 
Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger

  • Spicy Cumin Lamb Burger – While the filling was nice with tender lamb, cumin, and onions; I did not like the dry bread. I could see how these sandwiches are all the rage in China, with its ease of portability and cheap prices. However, I probably wouldn’t order these again.
Spicy Beef Hand-Pulled Noodles

Spicy Beef Hand-Pulled Noodles

  • Spicy Beef Hand Pulled Noodles – Famous Bao’s version of Biang Mian was very good. I loved how the chewy long wheat noodles, hot spicy oil, and tender beef all melded together. The noodles weren’t totally hand made (they seem machine cut), but that is a little quibble when these noodles were clearly kneaded, stretched, and cooked just right. I would definitely go to Famous Bao just for a bowl of noodles.

Vegetarians should not fret either as pretty much all the dishes they make have a vegetarian option. In fact, I hear the class version of Biang Mian simply has scallions and hot oil.

All in all, this was a really good intro to Shaanxi for me and the East Bay. I just can’t wait for more quality non-Cantonese Chinese restaurants to open up in Oakland and Berkeley. It would certainly free me from long trips to New York, LA, or even the South Bay.

Ramen in Portland

If I was skeptical that Thai food in Portland would be good, even with a world renown restaurant, then I certainly did not have high expectations for ramen in Portland. However, I am always up to try different types of Asian food wherever I travel so I ignored any reservations I had and dug right into my food adventures.

Mirakutei
536 E Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214

Tonkotsu Ramen at Mirakutei

Tonkotsu Ramen at Mirakutei

My first Portland ramen stop was Mirakutei, conveniently located a few blocks from the hotel I was staying. I went with my coworkers on a Monday afternoon who also wanted to grab lunch close by.

We sat down and looked at a very simple, one page lunch menu which had a few ramen options and a few bento box options. Most of us opted for the several ramen options that they had. I chose the tonkotsu ramen option, which came out fairly quickly. The broth was nice with a salty, rich pork stock that was filling but not too overpowering with fat. The noodles were good, if slightly more cooked than I liked. The pieces of pork were fabulous, however, with perfectly moist and tender meat and the eggs were perfectly soft boiled. At only $9.50, it is definitely a bargain lunch and well worth it.

Boxer Ramen
2309 NW Kearney Street
Portland, OR 97210

Boxer Ramen

Tonkotsu Shio at Boxer Ramen

A few days later my friend and I were on our way to Salt and Straw from the International Test Rose Garden and decided that we needed to eat some dinner first. While Northwest Portland has plenty of decent dining options, we spotted Boxer Ramen and decided to go in.

Boxer Ramen is pretty casual with a few picnic like tables set inside with a really simple menu of about 10 items plus a few seasonal side items on a separate sheet of paper. We both decided to get different types of ramen and share the Greens and Sesame. The Greens and Sesame came first and was very refreshing. The cabbage lightly flavored the chard as well and there was just enough oyster sauce to get a hint of saltiness. Then the Tonkotsu Shio came to the table. I wish the broth could have used a little more fat, but the noodles were cooked perfectly. The pork tender, if a little chewy, but I liked that there were a few more pieces than usual. The only true disappoint of the dish were the 2 soft poached eggs I had, which were very runny and, dare I say, bordering on raw. Overall, however, I liked my bowl of ramen and still found it pretty good.

All in all, the ramen in Portland I had certainly surpassed my expectations. In fact, despite the little imperfections here and there, I thought the ramen was still better overall compared to ramen shops in the East Bay. It goes to show that while mid-sized cities that don’t have a relatively large Asian population may not have restaurants that rise to the level of Los Angeles or New York, they certainly can have Asian food that can be competitive and above any expectations. I certainly won’t be bashful in trying out more ramen and Thai spots in Portland when I’m back again.