I've been to Ba Bay three times now and it's improved each time. I am so pleased to have them within walking distance.
I've had to work all weekend, spending today editing madly, to the point that my eyes were burning and watery. I didn't want to do anything fancy -- this is the problem with having one's birthday so closely on the heels of the holidays, as many of my Capricorn compatriots can attest -- I just wanted a nice dinner with some friends. Well, I got it, and then some.
The chili-glazed wings, scallion ($12) are just silly-good. I would happily go to the bar of a weeknight, get these and a vegetable side, and be happy with that as a meal. We also tried the new savory pancake, eggs, rock shrimp, scallion, maggi dipping sauce ($9), which is not a traditional Vietnamese crepe and not a scallion pancake, but the best of both, eggy and savory and sweet (from the rock shrimp) at the same time.
The brussels sprouts, sweet chili butter ($5) have gotten better, and the bok choy, oyster sauce, crispy shallots ($4) continues to be my favorite preparation of this dish I've yet encountered in town. The rockfish, almond milk, rice congee, fermented black bean ($21) was also lovely, although I only got a bite as one of my dining companions scarfed it up, raving about the great flavors and comforting nature of it. She also claimed the roseda farm shaky beef, marinated onions, black pepper, watercress purée ($19) was better than that at the San Francisco restaurant (well-known but I forgot its name already) known for the dish. Two large noodle dishes, the pho, rice noodles, roseda farm rib eye, tendon, tripe, herbs ($13)
and the spicy pork–shrimp broth, thick rice noodles, thai basil, pork loin, shank ($12), were uniformly praised and mostly devoured (seriously, if anyone can actually finish one of these after appetizers and drinks, I'd like to see it.)
The staff graciously and unnecessarily comped both our desserts in honor of my birthday (which I tried to make up in tips, although my editing-addled brain may have failed at the math). I saw a person or two grabbing take-out, and I'm really pleased that Ba Bay is offering their full menu for this. I just know that there will be countless nights that a big bowl of brothy noodles will hit the spot, and it will be just the right temperature by the time I get it home.
They certainly are learning, changing, and growing. Not every dish I've eaten there has been a home run, but tonight, everything hit the mark, and I was pleased to see that the dishes I like the first time have not slipped in quality even as others have improved. I hope more people learn about this spot and help turn it into a Penn Ave SE gem.