Gambit Review: Bacobar
A spot for creative bao — steamed buns with international fillings — in Covington
Bacobar bills itself as an international street food concept that draws influences from Asian, Latin, Creole and Cajun cuisines. Commander's Palace alums Jean Pierre Guidry and Carl Schaubhut opened the restaurant in Covington in February and serve dishes that are creative, colorful and fun.
Asian influences are strongest, with dishes pulling from Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai cuisines. Lime wedges accompany almost everything and there's plenty of Sriracha, lemon grass, soy and ginger, though never to the point of overkill.
Restaurant concepts such as this often cast too wide a net, emphasizing quantity of ingredients over quality of craft. The kitchen here doesn't fall into that trap, and dishes are executed with a delicate hand, taking care not to confuse too many flavors, rather layering them carefully, playing textures and ingredients off of each other.
Served in a hot cast-iron skillet, the breakfast bowl is visually akin to a culinary pie chart, sectioned into colorful quarters. There's coffee-colored roasted pork sidling a section of bright green microgreens, pickled onions and crimson cherry tomatoes. A bright golden section reveals buttery corn kernels and a sunny side up egg. Toffee-hued fried potato hash adds an element of crunch; beneath it is a decadent bed of cheesy stone grits.
Shrimp and bacon pad thai features fat, chewy rice noodles in sweet peanut sauce, sprinkled with lime juice and ribbons of bright red Sriracha. A poached egg sits on top and oozes yolk onto the pasta.
As the restaurant's name implies, bacos, or steamed bao buns configured as tacos, feature strongly on the menu. They arrive piping hot, fluffy and cloudlike, and there's an option to order the bacos "naked" — wrapped in a lettuce shroud.
Sweet and smoky chipotle and agave brisket-filled bacos present a hybrid of Asian and Southern barbecue flavors, and fatty brisket bits are complemented with crunchy Brussels sprouts slaw and fried shallots. A light and refreshing Gulf shrimp baco comes with crisp cucumber slices, pickled cabbage and carrots and a drizzle of house Seoul sauce, a slightly sweet and spicy orange elixir. The fried oyster baco is a more indulgent option, featuring plump cornmeal-crusted bivalves topped with thick and creamy kimchi remoulade slaw interlaced with nori. A touch of the restaurant's hot sauce — a bright and vinegary concoction — helps the flavors pop.
The bacobarrito leaves something to be desired and seems like more of an oversized sushi roll. Though impressive in size, the filling of black beans, rice and cabbage lacks flavor and overshadows the rest of the ingredients, including kimchi salsa.
The restaurant has excellent bar offerings, including a whimsical frozen drinks list. A lethal lemon grass-infused margarita is served with a spiced-salt rim.
Bacobar's global influences and explorations are fun and are a welcome addition to Covington's culinary landscape.