Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Best Laid Plans (Bao Noodles)

This post was going to be called ‘I Love it When a Plan Come Together’ (because there is never a bad time to use an A-Team reference), but then it turned out that it couldn’t be. M and I started out talking about drinks, dinner, maybe a movie – we weren’t really sure what we wanted to do. And somehow we realized that if we went for drinks at Gramercy Park Hotel, we’d be easy walking distance (4 blocks) from Bao Noodles and then could keep going to get to Casino Royale at the Kips Bay theater. Given that we got a late start and weren’t sure about the timing and that the movie has been out for months, we figured that we didn’t need to pre-buy tickets. That was the part that necessitated the title change.

M, who is much more plugged into what is cool than I am, suggested drinks at Gramercy Park Hotel (21st and Lex). That sounded good to me, as while I hadn’t been there yet, my secret source had suggested that it was a place I’d like. And I definitely like it. The ceiling is high (which is a huge plus for me in any room), the music was good (but not overpowering) and the décor was elegant (not quite gentleman’s club, but closer to that than most clubs). We got there pretty early (8:30pm) and so managed to get seats at the bar. I ordered champagne (Taittinger, which is one of my favorites, is available by the glass); M got one of the cocktails.

Keeping in mind our schedule, we headed from there over to Bao Noodles (2nd Avenue between 22nd and 23rd). M and I have been there before and I had wanted to go back for a while. In order to make the show (we didn’t know that the movie was sold out until after dinner, when we got to the theater) we asked the waitress to rush our order (and we didn’t order a full meal – I had had a late lunch so wasn’t starving). M got one of the beef pho’s, which she thought was quite good. I ordered an appetizer: Spring rolls

and a dessert: pandan panna cotta

The spring rolls were amazing: deep-fried packets of meat and vegetables – which I wrapped in lettuce. They came with a great spicy dipping sauce. They weren’t anything innovative, just one of the better implementations that I’ve ever had of a fairly standard offering. The kind of thing that keeps you coming back to a restaurant.

The dessert was actually the reason that I had been so excited to go back. I was first introduced to pandan as a flavor during my (highly recommended) Thai cooking classes with Kasma Loha-unchit. I have only tried to cook with pandan once on my own, but did not have any great luck (I need to try it again, as I’m not sure what possibly went wrong). And so, finding a place that serves it is a current necessity. And the first time I went to Bao, I was thrilled to find it on the menu. It didn’t disappoint either that time or this time.

So, really the only disappointment of the night was missing Casino Royale.

I often talk about how I’m a food snob and that that is not necessarily related to the price of food. Tonight was a perfect example. The price for my glass of champagne was more than the price of the total meal for both M and me (not including tip). Does this mean that I enjoyed the champagne more? Of course not, I definitely enjoyed the champagne and the atmosphere at GPH and was willing to pay what that cost. And I enjoyed the meal at Bao. Price doesn’t determine quality; it’s not even necessarily an indicator. That said, I am happy to spend the rest of my life looking for quality food and drink offerings.


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