Bao Bei – Vancouver, BC

Bao Bei
163 Keefer Street
Vancouver, BC
(604) 688-0876

“Modern is the new Fusion.” I don’t know how many times I have heard this glib and cynical phrase in the last few months. The recent launch of modern yet “authentic” Asian restaurants such as Bao Bei, The Keefer Bar, Oru, and a few others have this city’s foodies sitting up at full attention. Are these places at the beachhead of a new era in Asian dining here in town? This city is certainly not crying out for authenticity like most of North America’s urban centers. Vancouver has an embarrassment of riches in terms of great Asian food. So what makes these places so special?

One look around at Bao Bei provides a clue. The place is hopping…and it is a predominantly non-Asian crowd. It sounds so incorrect even as I write this….but there it is: the food appeals to non-Asians. A more charitable way to say it is that part of Bao Bei’s success to date can be found in their approachable renditions of “authentic” Chinese food. It is in the same vein as Wild Rice on East Pender which is perhaps the true prototype for this type of dining in this town.

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Bourbon and Branch – San Francisco, CA

Bourbon and Branch
501 Jones Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
(415) 931-7292

“No photo’s allowed”.  Oops. Sorry.

While I am a big fan of history, I’ve never really believed that all things used to be better in the good old days. While nostalgia will often make the past seem much more appealing than it actually was, I will admit that occasionally, they did things better. People took more time and care in their work – more craftsmanship. One place where that still holds true is Bourbon and Branch.

Bourbon and Branch is an old Speakeasy that actually operated as “The Ipswitch – A Beverage Parlor” from 1921 to 1923.  The current incarnation is a throw back to those good old days. From a password required to get in (easily found on the web), to secret entrances to escape the prohibition agents in case they ever raided, they’ve done their best to recreate the ambiance and atmosphere of the 20’s and 30’s. Rules from no cell phones to no standing at the bar, you definitely get a feel for the period.

What they haven’t left in the 20’s is the art of mixology. Starting with very carefully selected spirits and ingredients, carefully composed to provide the best cocktails possible, they are artists and masters at blending and mixing drinks. They certainly take their time with each element, from hand juicing, straining, muddling, chilling, pouring, every aspect of creating your cocktail is deliberate and intentional.

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