Bắc — Restaurant Review

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 decor 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

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.