First Look

Bao Las Olas Bringing Healthy Pan Asian and Homemade Bao Buns to Downtown Fort Lauderdale

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.

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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

Follow Sara Ventiera on Twitter, @saraventiera.

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Sara Ventiera