“fresh” Thai & Chinese $$
Known for their fusion cuisines, the Big Bowl“chain” restaurants can be found in Chicago, DC, and MN. I have to admit, I was attracted to by its name at first AND the fact that it’s both Chinese and Thai. As an Asian myself, I love picking apart restaurants that claim to serve up authentic local flavors. MUHAHAHAHA.
According to the restaurant, Big Bowl specializes in their ginger ales. Though I never grew up a fan of ginger per se, the more I matured (and got more educated on the wonderful powers of ginger), the more I taught myself to appreciate its flavors. Long story short, the bf and I each ordered a speciality ginger ale from the menu. We may have also ordered a cocktail to share. :P
Passion Fruit Ginger Ale, Shanghai Tan Cocktail, & Lemon Ginger Ale
Both ales had specks of fresh ginger and were incredibly refreshing. Though I ordered the passion fruit this time, I am definitely gonna try their green tea ginger ale next.
Passion Fruit Ale – I thought it was too sweet, especially since I was expecting a more tart and refreshing drink. There was little bit of heat from the ginger, plus some fizzle from the soda that really made the drink sing.
Shanghai Tan Cocktail – So good because it was so sweet you couldn’t taste any alcohol. Good choice for those who want to pretend they can handle pink alcohol.
Lemon Ginger Ale - WAS GOOD. Ok, excellent! So refreshing, clean-tasting, and only slightly gingery.
We started off with 2 appetizers to share…
Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($9)
Served with bibb lettuce, dipping sauce, and fried rice noodles
The chicken was well marinated, well-seasoned, and well-balanced (not overly salty or greasy or sweet). The crispy noodles provided the textural crunch and the lettuce made the dish feel fresh and healthy.
Mandarin Chicken Salad ($9)
With sliced oranges, shredded chicken, sliced almonds, and a ginger dressing
The vegetables were very fresh and went extremely well with the dressing. Although the orange slices were slightly sour, they went well with the salad and provided appropriate acidity for an otherwise more bland-tasting dish. The shredded chicken was tasteless and could have used any kind of seasoning to make its presence known, as it was also given in scant quantities.
As for our entrees, the boyfriend got pad thai while I opted for a rice-y dish.
Salmon Pad Thai ($15)
Nick thought – Although the presentation was fantastic, the entire dish (the salmon and the pad thai) were a bit too sour. The sour (tamarind?) sauce was too overpowering and he couldn’t really taste the other seasoning on the fish nor on the pad thai – only tasted sourness. The pad thai was cooked and seasoned well and tasted authentic, except for being overly sour. The sushi-grade salmon tasted fresh and was a perfect medium-rare as he ordered it.
Sweet-ginger sea scallops and shrimp ($14)
Served with black fungus, jicama, and spring onions in a sweet & sour ginger sauce
The dish was overwhelmingly garlicy as I continued to have garlic breath all the way until the next morning. However, I really liked the bold, sweet and sour seasoning, and fresh ginger used in conjunction to bring out the flavors of the seafood. The scallops were diced small and were very chewy, as were the shrimp (perhaps slightly over-cooked). The jicama in the dish though crunchy and refreshing had absorbed so much of the vinegar-based sauce that it became extremely sour to eat.
Taste: 3.5/5 (No winner of the pack but solid flavors)
Originality: 4/5 (I love the variety on the menu including interesting drinks and non-traditional Chinese dishes. Fun!)
Plating: 4/5 (Pleasant, pretty)
Value: 4/5 (Good value for downtown i guess)
Service: 4.5 (I felt sooo welcomed here it makes me wanna come back!)
Overall - This is a cool place for a casual dinner or get-together. Family friendly, good service, good-sized portions…can’t quite ask for more right? Just make sure you order the “right” dishes…I know, that’s easier said than done. Maybe ask them to hold the vinegar. hehehe