Ba Ren is one of my favorite chinese restaurants in San Diego. The restaurant specializes in Szechwan cuisine. Recently when trying to pick a place to eat, I realized it’s been well over a year since our last visit. Time to rectify that.

Szechwan cuisine often uses a lot of chili peppers and peppercorn. With the cold weather, Ba Ren is the perfect place to dine since the majority of the menu is made up of spicy dishes.  I like coming here when I have a large group of people because they have several large tables and the restaurant usually isn’t full.

At the front of the restaurant they serve house-made cold appetizers. You can get a plate of three as a starter for around $5. We got two plates since we had such a large group. I really enjoy the cold appetizers here. I’ve tasted almost all of them at some point and they are all well-made.

This plate consisted of marinated gizzard, seaweed salad and marinated bamboo shoots.

This plate consisted of spicy tripe, spicy pig ears, and cucumber salad.

A specialty of sichuan cuisine is spicy boiled beef.
We chose to do a combination of boiled beef and fish fillet. The fish and beef are boiled in a spicy liquid covered with chilis. You aren’t meant to drink the liquid; you simply just scoop out the fish and the beef slices.

Crispy rice crust with three delicacies.

This is one of our favorite dishes and one of the less spicy ones served. There’s only a bit of black pepper to add a tiny piece of spice. Rice squares are pre-fried and brought to the table. The server then pours a hot thick liquid broth with a variety of cooked ingredients (depending on what you order, in our case we had some mixed vegetables with fish, squid and sea cucumbers). When the hot liquid comes into contact with the fried rice squares, it causes them to sizzle. The liquid then soaks the rice squares, softening them. You’re left with a dish that has some crispy rice bits, some soft rice, all mixed in with a thick broth. Delicious.

Ma-po tofu

Mapo tofu is a spicy tofu dish. It consists of some ground beef, soft tofu, cooked with chili peppers and peppercorn. It’s a very popular chinese dish and I like the version at Ba Ren. Recently on a visit home, my parents were telling me the origins of the name for the dish, which I never knew about before. A little less appetizing once you learn of it, but interesting too.

“Ma” used to be a term to describe the scars on the face left by people who had survived measles. “Po” is a chinese word meaning wife. But it is also a generic term to used on middle-aged women. A woman vendor, who had survived measles, made this dish and was selling it. It became popular and other people would taste it and ask about where it was from. And people starting referring it to this tofu dish made by “Ma Po,” referring to a middle aged woman who had measles scars on her face. Hence the name, Mapo tofu.

Garlic spare ribs

None of us were much fans of this dish. The ribs had too little meat, the sauce wasn’t very special.

Fish fillet with tofu

We decided to add a non-spicy dish to our dinner and this ended up being a pretty good one.

Sauteed cut beans.

The beans are partially fried to develop a crispy, wrinkly texture and sauteed with a little bit of salty ground pork.

We were given some complimentary cold red bean soup. They usually do serve this to larger groups.

We enjoyed our food here as always. My one gripe about this place is that the service is always a little spotty and sometimes downright bad. Usually it’s better in a large group so I tend to only come here in a large group now. You can view the menu from my previous post here.

Ba Ren
4957 Diane Ave
San Diego, CA 92117
(858) 279-2520
Ba Ren Restaurant on Urbanspoon

   

8 Responses to “Ba Ren”

  1. leanne — December 5, 2011 at 9:27 am

    I was just thinking about Ba Ren the other day and how it’s been a while since we’ve visited. We always get stuck ordering the same dishes (mainly because that’s what I’m craving) but now I have a couple of ideas for new things to try.

    How’s the spicy boiled beef? Crazy spicy or just regular spicy? It’s also nice to know some of their non-spicy dishes are good, too.

    • Kirbie replied: — December 5th, 2011 @ 9:44 am

      The spicy beef is pretty spicy. I tend to scrape off a lot of the chili peppers before biting into it. But it’s good. The beef is really tender.

  2. caninecologne — December 5, 2011 at 4:04 pm

    I haven’t been here in a long time, but i love their fried shrimp with szechuan peppers! i even ate the peppers and they made my tongue and lips numb! everything i tried was really good (the spicy foods). another time i went there, they did not give us the “soup” but crappy fortune cookies! wth!

    • Kirbie replied: — December 5th, 2011 @ 10:57 pm

      Oh I haven’t had that one. I’ve had the fried chicken pieces though and it also has that crazy numbing sensation, but it’s so good! Yeah a few times when I went with just Don we didn’t get any dessert and really bad service. For a while Don refused to go at all. I eventually convinced him to go but only in big groups because the service is better then.

  3. caninecologne — December 6, 2011 at 4:06 pm

    i also think they gave us the fortune cookies because we weren’t chinese.

    • Kirbie replied: — December 7th, 2011 @ 9:49 am

      FH also thinks that the employees are racist. I’ve actually had other people tell me that too.

  4. jenn — December 9, 2011 at 1:41 pm

    i used to frequent this place more often. however, in the last half year or so, i have noticed new faces, and really think that the management has changed. the food is not the same anymore. it’s not so great. and yes, service usually sucks. i usually come here with my boyfriend. initially i thought the staff was rude at times because they didn’t speak english, but have come to realize that maybe… that might be how they are….

    sad to say, but i have definitely lowered my visits here.

    • Kirbie replied: — December 9th, 2011 @ 2:04 pm

      Aw I’m sorry to hear that. I agree with you on service. I haven’t been eating here much so I don’t know about the food quality going down. It was pretty good on our visit but we haven’t been here in a year.

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