I've been wanting to review Ba Ren for a long time, but have not gotten around to it until now. While I often complain about the lack of good chinese food in San Diego, Ba Ren is an exception. Ba Ren is one of the few chinese restaurants in San Diego where I think the dishes taste really good, and not just "good for San Diego" standards.
Ba Ren has a somewhat hidden location and I never would have found it if my friend didn't take me there a couple of years back. They specialize in Sichuan cuisine. The restaurant can accommodate quite a bit of seating, including several large tables for big parties. Ba Ren tends to always be a bit on the empty side, so seating should not be a problem.
The menu is pretty extensive. Pages and pages worth of different dishes. Most of which I have not tried. In addition to the dishes on the menu, they also offer a bar display of cold appetizers. A small plate of three appetizers is about $5 something.
The only thing that keeps me from visiting all the time is the service. The service is pretty poor here. Hard to flag down a waiter, hard to get your water and tea refilled, etc. In my experience, when you come with a big party, the service tends to be a bit better. Not great. But okay. However, every time it has just been Boyfriend and me, the service has been almost non-existent. On one occasion, the service was bad enough that Boyfriend declared we wouldn't be coming back. This caused me a lot of distress, as I really do love the food at Ba Ren. I convinced Boyfriend that we could still go when we have a large group since we get decent service then. So, now we only visit when we have a large party.
My aunt and uncle were visiting San Diego and wanted to meet for dinner. I took them to Ba Ren. Because my cousins don't like spicy food, we ordered almost all non-spicy dishes. I'm used to eating all really spicy dishes at Ba Ren, so this was a big change, but I was curious how their non-spicy dishes would taste.
First, we had sizzling beef.
Though there were peppers in this dish, the peppers added only a very mild spice. The beef was tender and flavorful.
Sitr fried green onion and lamb.
I wish they had used leaner pieces of lamb. The lamb pieces had a lot of tendon and fat.
Three seafood item with sizzling crispy rice
I really enjoy this dish. A delicious broth along with vegetables and seafood is poured onto fried rice cakes, creating a sizzling sound and making a tasty dish. I enjoy the rice even after it is no longer crispy as it is very well flavored with the broth.
Fish with picked vegetables
This was a large dish. I loved the flavor of the fish with the pickled vegetables.
Sitr fried on-choy
The on-choy could have been chopped into smaller pieces. The taste was alright, but nothing special.
Tea smoked duck
Probably the most disappointing dish of the night. The duck didn't have much meat and it was a bit salty and dry. I usually love tea duck, but this was not a good version.
Tofu with salted fish.
The tofu was rich and flavorful.
The food was good, even though we didn't have anything spicy. At the end of the meal, we were informed that if we paid cash, we would get $8 for use for next time. So I'll be back soon to review some of the spicy dishes.