Studio City: Take a Bao
I was invited to check out Take a Bao in Studio City two weeks ago. Bao is a Chinese term for buns. Take a Bao has more than just buns though. We were treated to a variety of small bites, salads, noodles and even fried chicken. Generally the food is Asian but cooked with French technique for American taste.
They have a small but credible craft beer, wine and cocktails list. I started off with the Old Fashioned which I was pleased to find packed a whallop with Maker’s Mark, orange, Luxardo cherry and bitters. There was also supposed to be ginger ale in it (not traditional) but I didn’t taste it.
The cocktails are well priced at $8-9 with a couple at $10 including the Wet Cucumber (Hendrick’s gin, cucumber, fresh lime, mint). This one was a bit sweet for me so I’d either go back to the Old Fashioned or try the Blood and Sand or Hemingway Daiquiri. I really like that they have classic cocktails here.
I was a little bit late to dinner so I missed the tofu popcorn that was apparently the favorite of the table. I did try the garlic chive meatball satay and the blistered shishito peppers.
I love the “hollow” stems of the water spinach (at Thai restaurants, this would also be known as morning glory or Ong Choy in Chinese restaurants) in the Warm Vegetable Medley which also included Chinese eggplant and chilies. It’s delightfully crunchy.
I’m always looking for a place that’s tasty and fresh. The salads exemplify this with the Eight Veggie salad that had roasted corn, edamame, snap peas, avocado, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, radish sprouts, sesame seeds, romaine hearts. It’s tossed with Gram’s tasty vinaigrette.
But I really loved the BBQ chicken, arugula and glass noodle salad. The chicken came with chilled glass noodles, roasted eggplant, garlic chives, fire-roasted red pepper, bean sprouts, mixed herbs, crushed peanuts, baby arugula and citrus-soy dressing. It reminded me a little bit of Vietnamese bun mi, a soupless noodle dish combined with loads of tasty vegetables.
Studio City’s Take a Bao serves three different baos. As I mentioned baos are buns. Take a Bao said they took the buns and flattened them to be topped more like tacos. I like that baos are made in the San Gabriel Valley and that they try to buy local ingredients whenever possible. I had a hard time deciding if I liked the duck confit or the banh mi more.
The third option is the crispy pank crusted fish. Here’s an interior shot to see how flaky the fish is. I would suggest adding a bit of sauce to this one.
I love that Take a Bao’s hot sauce comes in these containers labeled “heat.”
Next up were the two different noodles. We had the drunken tomato tamarind rice ribbon noodles with tofu puffs, roasted cauliflower, baby bok choy, cherry tomatoes, cilantro all with a spicy tomato tamarind sauce. I love that their noodles are fresh and not the dried kind.
Everyone really liked the yellow wonton noodles with tiger shrimp, tofu, cucumber, mixed herbs in a coconut broth with chili oil. I would have liked this with even more of a kick so the “heat” sauce came in handy.
The twice-fried Thai-style chicken was half a chicken and served with an Asian vegetable slaw. It was flavorful but if you like, you could dip into the sizzling (as in spicy) basil chili dressing or the garlic lime aioli. We were pretty much bursting at this point but I would love to try the short rib Bi Bim Bop next time as I love short ribs, kimchi and bi bim bop. It’s all tied together with a fried egg and the spicy Korean red chili sauce (gochuchang).
Whoever said you can’t leave without dessert was most definitely the wisest person who ever lived. We couldn’t leave Take a Bao without trying the salted caramel or mint chocolate ice cream macarons from Milk. Talk about American taste presented in an Asian way with French techniques!
And we most certainly couldn’t go without trying the chocolate s’mores bao. If you ever battled hot s’mores, this was definitely the more genteel and more enjoyable way of eating them.
I’m happy to see more interesting restaurants come into Studio City. I love sushi but a girl has to have variety and Take a Bao has so many options that cater to many tastes. And bonus they have great cocktails and craft beer!