A Review: Ba-Dar Chinese Restaurantby Jim Gressinger on May. 14, 2012, under Restaurant Reviews
Recently I had the pleasure of dining with Stella, a lovely young lady who was raised in China, has traveled the world, and is now engaged in genetic research at U of A. She kindly agreed to show me the finer points of Asian cuisine. This is fortunate since my mission this month is to add several Asian restaurants to my dining reviews on Southern Arizona Guide.
Because so many of my readers have suggested I review Ba-Dar, a Chinese restaurant on East Broadway, that’s where we headed on a mid-week May evening.
I had forgotten to make dinner reservations so I was relieved as we entered the restaurant to see Ba-Dar was not busy – perhaps only half the tables had patrons. We were immediately seated in the quietest booth at the back of the room, per my request.
This is a small, older commercial building that the restaurant owners have tried to dress up a bit. Two large fish tanks add to the ambiance and a few Chinese pieces of art hang on the walls, but the physical surroundings did not scream “Asian” like Gee’s Bistro.
And unlike so many American restaurants these days that insist on making patrons scream at each other over the annoying loud music, the Oriental music here was very much in the background.
Our waitress quickly brought water and took our drink orders. Menus were already on our table. Stella perused what I considered to be an extensive menu. Stella remarked that in China, the better restaurants might have as many as 2,000 dishes from which to choose. Unimaginable.
Stella told me that the menu we inherited when we sat down was skewed toward American tastes, and would not be the genuine article.
When our waitress returned, Stella asked to see the “Real Chinese” menu. And she asked for it in Chinese, which our waitress also spoke fluently.
With the “real” menu in hand, Stella asked me what I would like for dinner. I told her to choose, but that I was interested in sampling “authentic” Chinese. My comment inaugurated the beginning of the evening’s tutorial, me being the attentive pupil.
In considerable detail, accompanied by drawings on a napkin, Stella explained that, unlike Japan, China is BIG and has as many distinctive provincial varieties of tastes. Chinese dishes may be categorized as one of the Eight Culinary Traditions of China, also called the “Eight Cuisines of China”
For example Sichuan (in the west it’s know as Szechwan or Szechuan) is a province in Southwest China known for its bold spicy-hot cuisine. Sichuan cooks liberally add Sichuan peppercorn, garlic, chili peppers, as well as ginger, peanuts, and/or sesame to just about every dish. Since the last decade, Sichuan cuisine has been gaining popularity in America.
She explained that the Yue style of Chinese cooking is most familiar to Americans and comes from Guangdong and Hong Kong. .
Stella queried the waitress again in Chinese about some particulars. The waitress told her that they offer Yue, Sichuan and Taiwan styles. But base on the menu and Cantonese accent of the waitress, Stella ordered Yue style dishes. I found out soon thereafter that I was about to experience:
- A pot of salted fish blended with eggplant and chicken.
- A plate of beef with green onion.
- Side dish of white rice.
It didn’t take long for our “authentic” Chinese meals to arrive. After tasting each dish, Stella said the Ba-Dar chef did a reasonably good job of duplicating authentic Chinese dishes.
I thought the salted fish with eggplant a little bland, but the beef dish was very tasty – much to my liking.
We both agreed that the rice was a failure. Methinks it was reheated one too many times. But by the time we got it, the rice was nearly cold. How can a Chinese restaurant screw up rice?
All in all, Stella decreed that Ba-Dar should receive a 3.5-Saguaro rating – slightly better than just OK, but nothing to rave about. She added that if this establishment was to be compared with the best restaurants in the Guang Dong region, it would only rate 2.5-Stars.
By comparison, TripAdvisor reviewers gave Ba-Dar 4-Circles, and Yelp reviews averaged 3.5-Stars. I suppose anyone’s rating will depend on their familiarity with authentic Chinese and whether or not they were served cold, tasteless rice. But for Tucson, I’d say Ba-Dar is a good value and if you’re American Anglo, you probably ought to stick with the Americanized menu.
7321 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85710