Is It Any Good?

Okay, this Take A Bao in Studio City worked out soooo much better than the one in Century City.

Take a Bao on Urbanspoon
Take A Bao on Foodio54

So, you might recall I went to the Century City Mall one night and availed myself of the Take A Bao place in the Mall’s Eatery.

It…uh…did not go well.

It will so badly in fact that one of the Honchos contacted me via the contact page (yes, we have one of those), and apologized profusely for my bad experience, offering me a chance at a new one.

Errr, yeah.

Here’s the thing. The goal here at Is It Any Good, is to tell you what the average “Game Day” experience is like any any restaurant. It’s supposed to be an instruction manual, in a way. A “How to Guide” for any particular establishment.

Well, it goes without saying that you, the average customer, would probably not get a “do over” if you had a miserable meal hosted by one of the Company head-honchos, even though it was terribly polite of him to offer.

No, no lie. It was. Total class act, all the way. It was just a class act I couldn’t take advantage of.

So…what to do, what to do?

Oh, look. There’s a whole other Take A Bao on Ventura Blvd. (It’s a local chain after all). This one is a full-on restaurant. It serves Beer and Alcohol and everything.

Maybe what I should do is go there, and give it the once over.

In fact, that’s exactly what I did.

Now, let’s start with the food. The “Bao” (or buns) being served in this case are Taiwanese Koah-Pau, as least that’s the word I’ve learned to associate with it. To put a picture in your head, just picture a Taco made with sweetened Steamed Bread, and filled with all sorts of Porky goodness. Usually, there are some pickled vegetables to go along with the whole ensemble, and…unfortunately for me, peanuts are usually added.

I usually hold the Peanuts.

The Buns at Take A Bao follow this same principle. And as you recall, did not go down well at the Century City location…

…but they did work here.

Strange.

Maybe it’s the fact that they have a full crew at work back there, and not just two guys. I saw somewhere in six or seven people working in the exposed kitchen, plus another three people handling orders and managing.

Granted, I’m a big, big fan of the ladies who run Wei’s Scallion Hut who you can find at every Asian Outdoor Night Market in the Los Angeles area. But Take A Bao ultimately does a decent good job of replicating the Koah-Pau formula, and you will not feel the shame and regret at the Ventura Blvd. location in the least.

The place is sleek, hip and trendy looking, but comfortable. Order at the counter. Take a number. Remember, said number is a magnet, so place it conveniently on the stand above your chop-sticks, and wait. Need more food, return to said counter.

So ultimately, if you want to try a Koah-Pau, or a Bao, or whatever you personally want to call it, Take A Bao’s Ventura Blvd. location is a safe enough environment to try it out. I am glad I came here to reevaluate the place. I still don’t take back what I said about the location in the Century City Mall. But it’s clear that the folks who run Take A Bao at least understand what these things are supposed to taste like.

 

WHAT SHOULD I GET?: Since I was still recovering from the Century City experience, I decided to get at least one of the Pork Belly Buns to compare.

Completely…different…experience.

This bun was actually tasty. The vegetables added to the spark. It was a good Koah-Pau. The greatest ever? No. But good. No regrets.  It was definitely, please-sir-may-I-have-another.

They also had a Grilled Pork Bun on special and I got to admit, I like that one a bit more. That meat was grilled to perfection, and you wanted to tear apart your bun to get at it.

Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

Still being hungry, I went for the Short Rib Bibimbap bowl. Which was really good. It did not feel 100% authentic, but…you know…who cared at that point. It was a meaty-good delicious bowl of Rib Meat with pickled vegetables (red onions and carrots), kiddified Kimchi, and a big ol’ fried egg.

It was the fried egg that sold me.

It was good. It looked like Bibimbap. I’m not sure it’d sell in Koreatown, but it was still tasty nonetheless.

Oh, and what do I mean by “kiddified” Kimchi? A friend of mine told me that Korean parents may occasionally dip Kimchi into water to soften the spiciness for their children. So anytime, I get Kimchi that’s…well…feels like it’s at half-strength compared to the Kimchi I’d get at Chosun, well…it’s kiddified. Otherwise proper texture and crunch. It’s real Kimchi, just softened for an American palate.

 

IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: While Take A Bao doesn’t attract a huge, Asian clientele (lacking one is usually a concern for me), it’s not bad. It’s definitely a step above a place like P.F. Chang’s in that it’s trying to show you more and more what Taiwanese food is like with some things you may not have tried before. But please, come here and get your training wheels on, then please go into San Gabriel, into Arcadia and find it again. See what the differences are. This is how you learn Taiwanese food.

Overall, this was a positive experience. I wasn’t expecting one. Still, I don’t plan on returning to the Century City location. It may just be too small with too small a crew to handle things.

 

PARKING: Easy enough Take A Bao has it’s own Valet Powered lot, which offers complimentary parking for its customers. Hand your keys to the guy, you wont have to pay. (Still tipped him anyway).

 

MAP DIRECTIONS:
Take A Bao (Studio City)
11838 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604

Tel: (818) 691-7223

Hours:
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday: 11:30 am – 9:00 pm