Broward County is not known for having an excess of good Asian restaurants.
Yes, there is a Thai sushi spot on almost every corner. And sure, it'll satiate the craving for sweet, spicy, and savory all at once, but we've been there and done that a million times over.
Just a couple of weeks ago, Bao Las Olas opened its doors with healthy homemade Asian fare right in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
We went in on a media dinner for a first look.
The restaurant focuses on sourcing high-quality meats devoid of hormones, antibiotics, and all the bad stuff. Produce is sourced locally, as much as possible (it is currently trying to expand its local provisions); and most of the menu items, including the namesake bao buns ($8 to $10) and the pork dumplings ($9), are made from scratch.
Dishes span across East Asia with a wide selection of piquant items available in small-plate, rice, salad, soup, bao buns, and large-plate options.
Small plates feature shareable selections: Blue crab rangoon ($10) is made daily with macadamia nuts and a spicy homemade sweet chili; Chinese sticky ribs ($11) use apple kimchee and arugula; and ahi poke ($16) features big-eye tuna, sweet onions, seaweed, and sesame.
Soups include a variation of Tokyo ramen noodle soup ($12) with pork belly, slow-poached egg, and fish cake as well as sake steamed clams ($13) in a broth of ginger and miso served with togarashi crostini.
Large plates stretch from miso bronzed Chilean sea bass ($32) over eggplants and baby bok choy drizzled with a balsamic tamari reduction to togarashi spiced rib eye ($39), Strauss all-natural grass-fed beef, yuzu mashed potatoes, roasted wild mushroom, and garlic soy to pancit canton ($21), a combination of ramen noodles, bok choy, pork belly, shrimp, and chicken.
Even though the pungent food is reason enough for a visit, the atmosphere and specials are a worthwhile mention.
Set in the old space of Wild East, the indoor/outdoor restaurant offers a comfortable interior with warm imported Indonesian woods, multiple bars, and relaxed booths. Outside, a covered patio and dock overlook the serene adjacent canal.
Every Monday, the spot offers $15 all-you-can-eat bao (including Ashley Farm all-natural chicken, Kurobata pork belly, black angus skirt steak, blackened fish of the day, and five-spice tofu).
Thursday is ladies' night with half-off appetizers and $3 cocktails (the same goes for happy hour).
For lunch, the place offers a fast-casual menu. Selections include bowls with choice of jasmine rice, brown rice, soba noodles, or salad, topped with five-spice chicken ($12), Korean spiced skirt steak ($13), lemongrass shrimp ($13), crispy tofu ($10), Scottish salmon ($14), Kurobata pork belly ($12), and veggies as well as a garnish.
Bao buns and select small plates are also available.
Bao Las Olas is located at 1200 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-530-4176, or visit facebook.com/baolasolas.
Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.
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