>> Thursday, March 1, 2012
Price: ~$10-15 per dish
Location: 4957 Diane Ave, San Diego, CA 92117
The Quick Bit:
+ Decent Chinese food in San Diego
+ Authentic Szechwan food
Δ Service could be speedier
Δ Service could be more attentive
Note: Shortly after posting this story I guess I got a scoop on the real issues with the restaurant.I'm not good at goodbyes.
Hearing that Ba Ren was closing, I decided that I would try to visit one last time. For me, Ba Ren was the one (pre-Liang's Kitchen) Chinese Restaurant in San Diego worth a visit. I can thank Kirk at mmm-yoso for getting Ba Ren on my radar, but I enjoyed the cuisine there on several occasions.
Unfortunately, for anyone who visited Ba Ren in about the previous 6+ months, it was easy to tell that something had changed.
Since I wasn't a frequent visitor to the restaurant, the news of the closing came as a big surprise to me. After ordering, I was able to converse with the waitress a little to get some more information. It turns out that Ba Ren isn't closing, but the restaurant was sold to a new group of owners. They also plan to serve Szechwan cuisine (and perhaps keep the Ba Ren name).
While I didn't visit the restaurant enough times to develop a bunch of personal favorites to get a last taste of, I decided to adopt a different tactic. I named a protein and asked the waitress for a recommended preparation of that protein, figuring she would know which preparations were the best.
Ordering was a little interesting because I was asked if I wanted "small spicy or medium spicy" to which I responded "spiciest."
|teppan yaki lamb|
|twice cooked fish|
The twice cooked fish recipe is usually a preparation where the fish is first steamed and then a hot szechwan oil is poured on top to cook it a second time. This preparation featured fish fillets and didn't seem to revolve around the philosophy of pouring really hot oil over the fish. The fish was very flavorful, but again the vegetables seemed to lack some flavor.
|chong qing hot pot|
The hot pot featured slices of beef, fish, chicken, tofu, bean sprouts, glass noddles, napa cabbage, and other ingredients. This was easily the best dish of the meal. The soup was very flavorful and contained a depth of flavor for all the ingredients. While there looks to be an overload of peppers, the dish was not that spicy and was actually very edible.
|frogs legs with pickled szechwan peppers|
My dining companion insisted that we try a dish with frogs legs, and this was the preparation that was suggested. Of all the styles of cooking, the sauce for this style seemed to be the most flavorful. The sauce contained an additional element of both acidity and sourness (from the pickling liquid) that really elevated the flavors of the preparation. While I am normally a big fan of frog, the frog in has definitely seen its better days. Part of the pleasure in eating frog is the texture of the meat, but this preparation was missing that texture.
While I didn't have an amazing goodbye sendoff meal at Ba Ren, I will still remember it for delivering great food in its prime. I remember a fish dish that was part of a special menu at one point which I thought was a one-star michelin dish. I wish the best of luck to the owners of Ba Ren and thank them for all the great meals I enjoyed. I will certainly miss the restaurant, and now am in need of a second Chinese restaurant in San Diego to eat at.