When Sound Café closed in the summer of 2014, Marigny residents collectively sighed over the loss of their beloved coffee shop and book store–cum–community center. The period of mourning was short-lived, however, as a few months later the bookshelves and coffee mugs were replaced by an updated kitchen and chopsticks with the opening of Bao & Noodle by Doug Crowell, formerly of Herbsaint. Crowell can often be found peeking out from behind columns of steam in his open kitchen, where he creates authentic Chinese cuisine drawing on the influence of his Chinese-American wife’s extended family.
The short but diverse menu intersperses subtle and bold flavors in dishes that range from the familiar to Cantonese favorites as well as spicy Szechuan specialties. The namesake dim sum staples deserve top billing, especially the steamed and fried bao filled with ground pork and served with spicy soy for dipping. Thick, hand-pulled biang biang noodles with an ideal chewy structure are the foundation for lamb seasoned with cumin for a lingering heat and braised to the consistency of your favorite debris-style roast beef po-boy. Comparatively thinner dan dan noodles are mixed with minced pork and laced with chili oil and peppercorns for more assertive heat.
Unique house specialties include a crunchy Burmese tea-leaf salad and baked scallion buns filled and topped with pork floss, an unfortunately (but accurately) named delicacy of dried, shredded pork that has the texture of cotton candy and the appearance of Spanish moss. Less adventurous eaters will be pleased with the handmade dumplings filled with shrimp, pork, or a combination of both, but beware of a Friday night dumpling sell-out that typically carries over into Saturday. Thankfully, the tea-smoked duck breast is always available, and the remarkably tender and flavorful slices demand that this dish be ordered on every visit.
Like its predecessor, Bao & Noodle fits perfectly within the bohemian vibe of the Marigny. Tall ceilings and a plethora of windows create an open and airy space that is both casual and comfortable. Prices are laughably affordable, with only a few dishes crossing the $15 mark. Although the restaurant lacks a liquor license, diners are encouraged to BYOB or take advantage of a recent partnership with the nearby wine shop Grand Krewe, which created a short list of wine and sake specifically paired for the menu. Patrons can either stop by the shop on Decatur on their way to dinner or take advantage of Grand Krewe’s delivery service (until 8 p.m.) when available.
2700 Chartres Street; Tue–Sat 11:30a–2p, 5p–10p; (504) 272-0004; baoandnoodle.com