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Bar Bao, Social Restaurant Group's Foray into Pan-Asian Cuisine and Cocktails, Clarendon

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My husband and I were walking in Clarendon Saturday night looking for a place to stop for dinner (we had planned to get a salad at Northside Social, but squatters who weren't eating were still taking up tables for work at 7:30 p.m.).  We walked past Bar Bao, which we've been looking forward to trying once they opened, and saw activity inside.

It turned out they were having a soft opening and it was their second night open. Because it was a soft opening, I won't report in any detail other than to say we enjoyed our meals thoroughly.  (We liked the music, too - it was loud, but it was not EDM which can set off headaches for me, but rather a good mix of some '80s/'90s/'00s energetic music).

They had a more limited menu than they will for the true opening, but there were still plenty of things on it and we were quite happy. It's mostly Asian-inspired street food / bar food (including several kinds of bao, steamed dumplings, and at least one vegetable side). We had one of the nicest and most attentive (in a non-annoying way) servers we've ever had, too. We definitely plan on going back and may become semi-regulars.

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I went to Bar Bao last night.  They state they are a fusion restaurant, so it would be rather churlish for me to comment that they're not serving anything authentic.  In fact, they're semi-authentic, and they're semi-good.

I started with some pork and shrimp siu mai.  It was decent, at $7 per order, it's not even twice as much as what a Chinese joint charges (around $3.75 in NoVA).  The Hangover Soup (Lao Pho) supposedly had oxtail, short ribs and meatballs.  I saw no oxtail, could some of the shredded meat in the soup came from oxtail?  I suppose so.  This really tasted like a blander version of Vietnamese pho.  You can throw in dried onion, bean sprouts, jalapenos, vidalia onions, etc. and it's still bland, like if you went to a Vietnamese pho joint at the end of the day bland.  I also had some Chinese broccoli - they weren't sauteed with garlic but the stems were nice and crunchy, which is how I like them.  At $4 for a side, quite a bargain (although it's only enough roughage for one).

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