There is a certain pleasure in dressing up a little bit and walking into a restaurant where the other patrons are also looking good, and for a frugal Seattle-ite such as myself, this experience comes rarely. For this reason I enjoyed with my general experience recently at Ba Bar, the new Vietnamese restaurant with a pleasingly hip ambiance located on 12th ave in the old Watertown location.
The menu is somewhat limited, and we started with the most substantial vegetarian small plate: Mung Bean dumplings (there are also a couple of salads).
These dumplings were unlike any other I've had: the dough had the slimey, gummy texture of wet mochi, and the insides were the texture of somewhat dry mashed potatoes. Was this the mung bean? I am totally ignorant about what a mung bean dumpling is supposed to be like, so it is hard for me to criticize these. That said, I found the textures to be hard to bite/chew/swallow. The sauce, however, with fried shallots, was fantastic.
There were just a few vegetarian entrees (including make your own spring rolls), and I chose the tofu vermicelli bowl.
Now, there is no shortage of fantastic, inexpensive, vegetarian tofu vermacelli bowls in this city, so I found myself with really high expectations for this $11 primadonna. I am dissapointed to say that it just wasn't very impressive. Granted, I am not a mushroom fan and the bulk of this bowl was savory, delicious (so I was told by my dining companion) shitakes, but apart from that detail, the bowl was too light on my favorite parts of the bun bowl: browned peanuts, fried shallots, fresh herbs, and shredded veggies. The sauce was delicious (it was the same sauce that came with the dumplings), but everything else was sort of ho-hum. Even the distinguishing feature, some strange little smashed burrito type garnish made with tofu skins, was sort of cold, greasy and bland.
I so enjoyed sitting in the warm crowd of lovely patrons, and the ambiance was perfect on a recent cool evening, but still it's hard for me to imagine going back and paying slightly more upscale prices for the dishes I got.