Take A Bao

Every time I've taken the bus down 2nd Avenue, I've noticed Bao Noodles right behind the 23rd St. stop. It always struck me as such an odd location for what looked like a somewhat trendy, always busy Vietnamese restaurant. This stretch of 2nd Ave (and 23rd for that matter) isn't exactly the culinary gem of NYC! I was planning to meet SS and JH for dinner one night, and wanted to try a new spot somewhere in the Gramercy/Kips Bay area. I threw around a few suggestions, and they decided to go with Bao Noodles. I was thrilled that they were willing to try it with me!

Even on a cold Tuesday night, every table was full. Luckily one table was paying its bill, so we were able to sit pretty quickly. I'm not exactly what you'd call proficient in Vietnamese cuisine, so I had a few questions about the menu. Unfortunately, our server's English wasn't the best. After a few failed attempts at finding out the differences between some of the noodle and noodle soup dishes, we deferred to another server. Questions answered - we were ready to order!

I'm not usually one to order tofu, but something about the vegetarian noodles appealed to me.
When it's prepared well and in a dish with a ton of flavor, I like it. And when it's fried, it's even better. The vermicelli noodles were stir-fried and served with fried (mmm) tofu, bok choy, bamboo shoots, and shiitake mushrooms. The noodles themselves had a ton of flavor (albeit a little too much oil), but there was also a sauce that came on the side. Not sure what kind of sauce it was exactly, but it was somewhere between a sweet soy sauce and a spicy chili sauce...and absolutely delicious.

JH ordered the chicken salad, which came with shredded chicken, cabbage, bean sprouts, carrots, daikon, and herbs in nuoc mam dressing. She also ordered the shrimp soup with garlic, chive, and tofu in a chicken broth. It's in this format that I don't care for tofu...large, plain chunks. JH didn't like it either, so she picked out the tofu, but enjoyed the rest of the soup.

SS ordered the chicken noodle soup with shredded chicken and rice noodles in a chicken broth. She said the chicken was pretty unseasoned, but the broth was very flavorful.

I tried both of their dishes, and have to say, I liked mine the best. It may not have been the healthiest, but it definitely had the greatest depth in flavor. There were a lot of other dishes, especially appetizers, that I am eager to go back and try. One dish actually combines an appetizer with an entree, and really caught my eye: vegetable spring rolls on rice vermicelli. Too bad I noticed it after I ordered! I love spring rolls. I love noodle dishes. The two together? Too good to be true. I had to ask the server just to clarify. And yep, it's exactly as it sounds...spring rolls cut up and served on top of a noodle dish. Don't think I'll even need to see a menu next time I go to Bao!

Bao Noodles
391 Second Avenue
b/t 22nd & 23rd Streets
Menu Pages listing