Bao Las Olas Seeks to Expand South Florida's Taste for Asian Cuisine

Clockwise from left: Bao owner Simon Bai; blue crab rangoon; Har Gow dumpling.
For the past decade, the United States has been experiencing an Asian resurgence of the culinary variety. Dishes like bao buns and ramen, once reserved for Chinatowns and college dorms, respectively, have become the stars of restaurant menus around the country.

And like everything else, the concept took its time trickling down to South Florida. Over the past few years, however, we've been seeing increasingly more pan Asian starting to rise up.

Bao Las Olas is the latest incarnation.

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Set on a canal on Las Olas Boulevard (the space that once housed Wild East), the spot offers a wide selection of from-scratch Asian fare in a casual, chic atmosphere.

The restaurant is separated into several areas. The main dining room is modern and somewhat stark. To the left is a large, rustic, imported Indonesian wooden bar overlooking the open kitchen; a few minimalist white booths sit across, commanding a view over the picturesque patio and dock.

Although the space allows guests to watch the chefs work, the outdoor area has been drawing the crowds. With upward-facing landscape lighting as well as dockside hurricane lanterns and fire pits, the exterior is idyllic, perfect for a relaxing, drawn-out meal of shared plates or entrées.

Owner Simon Bai wanted to open a concept that focuses on sourcing high-quality ingredients, with the majority of the dishes made from scratch on the premises. Meats are devoid of hormones and antibiotics, produce is sourced locally when possible, and no MSG is used in anything.

"I like to know what I'm eating," says Bai. "If something is full of hormones or steroids, I shy away from it. Everyone is eating out more and eating all that nasty stuff all the time. It made me wonder if I could turn that all-natural way of eating into a viable business."

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