Baba brings familiar favorites to redmond. The Long family has built themselves an Asian food empire in Central Oregon. With their flagship "Szechuan" restaurant on Third Street, they own a total of seven spots, including their newest addition Baba Chinese in Redmond. Located in a historic Sixth Street building downtown, Baba bucks the trend of traditional, ornate décor for a clean and modern look.
The remodel includes sleek black tile flooring, built-in and lit alcoves showcasing teapots, and a peak-through shelving with vases sporting post-modern design. A bamboo forest decorates one wall and the rest of the surfaces are either shiny black, bright red, or a soothing tea green.
The menu is daunting; four pages of dishes ranging from noodles to meat to seafood. The recommended dishes are listed on the nightly insert, a formidable list and the one we chose to order from.
To start, the server brought over a dish of fried wonton skins and a brilliantly red-orange sweet-and-sour dipping sauce that was more sweet than sour. As addicting as potato chips at a picnic, or tortilla chips at a Mexican restaurant, these will fill you up if you're not careful. A pot of steaming tea accompanies the wonton skins to sip while perusing the expansive menu.
The first to arrive was the Rainbow Shrimp, a massive plate with three shrimp preparations separated by fresh orange slices. The best of the three was the "garlic" preparation. A dark savory soy garlic sauce covered the tender shrimp. The "sweet and tangy" was a basic sweet and sour. The "wine with garlic" dish was texturally unappealing, with a light yellow and quite viscous sauce, although the flavor was fine.
Next came the House Sizzling Wok with shrimp, chicken and BBQ Pork, prepared tableside in a sizzling wok. The vegetables (snow peas, carrots, water chestnuts) were fresh and the pork tender, but the sauce lacked zip and needed a fair dosing of soy sauce. We also ordered the Sesame Seed Tofu that came on a huge plate and, as my dining partner commented, looked a bit like Almond Roca. It was sweet and very fried - a little bit greasy and very filling. The little cubes were slightly crunchy on the outside and very soft on the interior.
The rest of the menu is filled with classic dishes you would expect to find. Mu Shu varieties, pot stickers, Low Mein, egg rolls, Kung Pao Chicken, Twice Cooked Pork, broccoli beef, won ton soup and many, many more. To-go orders are popular and there is local delivery with a ten-dollar minimum. There are even incentives such as free crab puffs, egg rolls or two liters of soda with a $20 take out order.
The food is similar to that at Howie and Di Long's earlier "Szechuan" restaurants: fresh, not overdone, but a bit heavy on the sweeteners and, at times, lacking depth. Someday we'll get a Chinese restaurant in Central Oregon that doesn't cater to the American sweet tooth. Until then, there's no need for dessert.
343 SW 6th Street, Redmond 504.8882. www.babachinese.com