Name of restaurant: Take A Bao, a catchy name chosen for its specialty in steamed bao sandwiches. Though, with more creative dishes on the menu now, they seem to have outgrown it.
Chef: Gavin Portsmouth, a London-trained chef that established himself in New York before landing in L.A. He's opened up seven restaurants.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? Believe it or not, the tofu popcorn with cilantro cashew chutney under the "Small Bites" section of the menu. It exemplifies everything about the restaurant -- a humble Asian staple food gets the elemental British fish-and-chips treatment with a puffy, light and crispy soda-water batter. It is served with a creamy, herby cilantro and cashew dip that is worthy of ordering the item alone.
Concept: A successful take on modern Asian food executed by an experienced chef in a sleek setting, with a respectable craft beer and cocktail program in Studio City, disguised as a fast-casual restaurant. And because it's counter service, all dishes are $2 to $3 less than what you'd find at similar sit-down establishments.
Who's at the next table? Valley girls, catching up over San Gabriel Valley sourced steamed buns stuffed with Maple Leaf Farms duck leg in plum hoisin sauce, unsweetened LA Mill bergamot iced teas and Coolhaus salted chocolate and caramel ice cream sandwiches.
Appropriate for: Chinese and Thai food connoisseurs who will appreciate something that is pridefully not authentic but really tasty. Good for a casual meet with your foodie-minded friend or significant other.
Uh-oh: Some of the rice bowls are extremely filling. Instead, opt for a side order of couscous-like fried fluffy broken rice and try other things on the menu.
Service: Valet parking is free and you order at the counter, but that doesn't mean that you don’t have to tip!
What are you drinking? Old Rasputin. But was also tempted to try the seasonal tap of Clown Shoes "Clementine" White Ale.
Take A Bao, 11838 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, www.takeabao.com.
The Scouting Form is a quick look at restaurants worth a visit. Scouts were selected by restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who may or may not agree with a single word.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times