Monday, September 26, 2005

Bo

So right off the bat I love this restaurant. The décor, clean, red and black with a hardwood floor. A bar and a few tables at the front with steps up to a dining area at the back.
There are ten other people in the place when we arrive and, as it turn out, the waiter is Sean’s neighbour from Westmount. We look over the menu and decide on a few appetizers to share and then one main between us. The service is good, even if the waiter seems a bit hesitant to recommend any one dish over another.
After a bit of Sing Tao we embark on our meal.
Scallop tartare with a creamy tobiko dressing comes in a martini glass with some cuke, pickled ginger and small sheets of toasted seasoned nori on the side. On top rests a crispy strip of some deep fried dough. The suggestion is made that we wrap the tartare in the strips of nori “like a Chinese taco”, and although this is a good texture play, the flavour of the seaweed runs all over the tartare, which is a beautiful mix of mayo (Japanese?) and tobiko with some super fresh scallops. Much more to our liking is the crispy chip, the texture play is better than the nori and the flavour is light and slightly rich from the frying. It goes much better with the tartare. So all in all a well made dish, beautifully presented with a difficult accompaniment.
Steamed pork dumplings with Szechwan and chilli vinegar dipping sauces come in a little bamaboo dim sum steamer. Four little soup dumplings (tang bao?) staring out at us. Although I love delicate dumplings, these are overly so. The wrappers are so fragile that any attempt to extract the dumplings from their steamer home results in torn skin and, more unfortunately, spilling of the delicious broth inside. The filling, texturally I find too delicate and in need of more spring. The flavours are good but fragile, and can’t compete with the dipping sauces both of which are based on Chinese black vinegar, one with somewhat thickly julienned ginger, and one we presume to be the Szechwan style. Neither are spicy and are way too similar to be worth offering separately. What really stands out on this plate, and it comes back again, is a salad of shredded nappa cabbage, topped with salsa of ginger and chopped lychee. It took us about 5 minutes to dissect this salad, the lychee being the mystery ingredient, and it is a total winner. If they offered this salad by the bowlful I would be first in line.
Grilled baby squid was unavailable so at the waiters suggestion we settle on the grilled chicken satay with kaffir lime and peanut sauce. The chicken is lightly marinated, perfectly cooked, and rests on some more sexy nappa salad with lychee salsa. A generous moat of thai lime flecked peanut sauce surrounds, rich, not too sweet. I really like this dish. I couldn’t put into words why ans no it’s not just the lychee salsa It’s just a dish that comes together for me, the sum of the parts being more than the whole and all that. Probably also the lack of sweetness that is the bane of so many peanut sauces.
Billing your General Tao chicken as the best in the city takes a bit of balls and although I have to confess that I am not really a General Tao fan. I can count the number of times I’ve eaten it on one hand, but I like to think that maybe I’m just waiting for a revelatory experience. So we order the Tao.
Once again the meat is perfectly cooked and the batter is light. The sauce for me is texturally thin but intensely sweet (maltose?), Sean assures me that sweetness is a Tao trademark but I still find it overpowering. It needs heat to balance it out, and although there is good meaty flavour, the sweetness just blots it out for me. Now if you are a Tao fan this may be exactly what you’re looking for, a prefect blend of high quality ingredients with a nod towards the flavours of the Tao you had as a child. I approach this dish with no golden light cast by nostalgia and that and that may very well be my loss. A small side of steamed chinese veg and one fried rice noodle garnish that is spectacular and unwieldy and that I love, some steamed rice, and there you have it. Am I converted, no. Is it a damn good Tao, you bet, probably just not meant for me
The restaurant is new, and I am sure that some of these issues are just growing pains. I never made it to Soy, the chefs previous venture, but I will definitely be back to Bo, for more food and to try one of their sexy sounding martinis.

56$ for three beers, after tax and before tip.

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