Bắc — Restaurant Review

Sunday, 14 February 2010

This was the open­ing week­end for the epony­mous Bắc, the new Asian food place in Tremont. I’d spent most of the day yes­ter­day tramp­ing around Cleveland in the snow, so it was a wel­come change of pace to spend some time in a warm room with great at­mos­phere and cute wait staff. The change in the space from what used to be La Tortilla Feliz is re­mark­able. Gone is the yel­low-or­ange paint, and the stuc­coed walls are now a sooth­ing green. All of the dé­cor was picked by some­body (I’m as­sum­ing Bắc him­self) who un­der­stands that classy looks, com­fort, and util­ity do all go to­gether.

When I met Bắc at the Velvet Tango Room a few months ago, he said that his goal was to cre­ate a place where you can get an ap­pe­tizer, a drink and a din­ner for around $20. He did a good job. The menu is struc­tured in such a way that you’ve got an ar­ray of op­tions that meets this goal, and an equal ar­ray for a diner who wants to shell out a bit more. There’s even a cus­tom cock­tail menu (most run around $7), and $2 PBR’s that are $1.50 dur­ing happy hour.

I wanted to get every­thing on the menu, but whit­tled it down to the Banh Mi sand­wich ($8) or the pad thai ($11). The Banh Mi sand­wich sounds de­li­cious, so I’ll get that next time I go there. I got the pad thai, “fam­ily-hot”, and since Bắc’s fam­ily is in the kitchen mak­ing the food, this was hot. Also, since Bắc’s fam­ily is in the kitchen, the hot­ness was such that it en­hanced rather than over­pow­ered the fla­vor of the pad thai. The spring roll ap­pe­tizer ($5) was also amaz­ing. Fried just enough, but not greasy, the in­ter­nal bits were chopped finely enough that you didn’t pull them all out when you took a bite, and the roll had enough ten­sile strength that it didn’t dis­in­te­grate once one end was bit­ten off.

Look, I can’t em­pha­size enough that Bắc’s fam­ily is in the kitchen mak­ing the food. So we’re talk­ing gen­er­a­tions-old fam­ily recipes here.

Since to­day is Chinese New Year, we were even served com­pli­men­tary co­conut jien duy (a sesame seed dumpling) af­ter din­ner.

Bắc hits all of the restau­rant sweet spots. Go there.

Gill Sans Fatigue

Monday, 1 February 2010

I have Gill Sans fa­tigue. Its in­creas­ing ubiq­uity might merely be the re­sult of my in­creas­ing aware­ness of var­i­ous type­faces, con­fir­ma­tion bias, or some­thing else, but every­where I look, there it is. On all of the Colliers Ostendorf-Morris for-lease signs (and there are a lot of those in down­town Cleveland) on ban­ners ad­ver­tis­ing lux­ury lofts, on signs in hall­ways, on busi­ness cards, on the side of com­mer­cial vans, on plaques and dis­plays at the Museum of Natural History. Everywhere.

What used to be my fa­vorite font is now played out (or has been and I’m just now notic­ing). I still like Eric Gill’s work, though. And by work I don’t mean the fact that he slept with his sis­ters, daugh­ters and fam­ily dog. I mean his type­faces, wood­block prints and sculp­ture.