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 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.