Depending on whom you ask, finding great Chinese food in Seattle is either tricky or downright impossible, because it doesn’t exist. Local Chinese-food aficionados have been known to respond to the question “Where should I go to dim sum?” with a sassy “Vancouver, B.C.”
So one could argue that Bako, with its promising modern take on Cantonese food, is a restaurant that passionate Chinese-food lovers have been rooting for, even counting on. And it also explains why we’re so disappointed; there’s potential, but inconsistencies rule.
Most of the problems stem from the seasoning: Tofu stuffed with eggplant and mushrooms ($8) desperately needed salt; granted, this dish was also served near-cold, but it was utterly bland. The Eight Treasure Rice ($11) was a big bowl of rice mixed with pork, Chinese sausage, seasonal mushrooms and green beans, and a poached egg. Good enough, but a little chili sauce would have done miraculous things.
The good: Oxtail mantou buns ($9) are tasty: tender shreds of rich meat in a soft bun with slivers of pickle adding a nice, bright counterpoint. And Chinese broccoli (listed as “seasonal greens,” $7) is also good: steamed to firm-tender, awash in XO sauce.
But not a single bite rose above the midline, and the servers are so green that they might gossip about diners within easy listening distance of other diners. And inventive cocktails that lean too far to the sweet side (I’d stick to beer). High hopes, mostly dashed.
Dinner Tue.–Sun. Capitol Hill, 606 Broadway Ave. E; 206.829.8958; bakoseattle.com $