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Bird & Bao’s Asian-fusion cuisine doesn’t fail to delight

An assortment of baos, or Chinese steamed buns, served at Bird & Bao. Bird & Bao is a small Asian-fusion restaurant located in downtown Patchogue, N.Y. JUSTIN LEE/THE STATESMAN

When amazing service combines with spectacular cuisine tucked in a delightful atmosphere, it’s enough to bring a tear to my eye. This trifecta is rare, but Bird & Bao excels in every aspect. This small Asian-fusion restaurant situated in the heart of downtown Patchogue, N.Y. will keep me coming back for more.

Walking into the sleek and modern dining room, all eyes are immediately drawn to the large wooden island lit by soft neon and warm lighting. Greenery elegantly drapes over a bar near the window. The tranquil yet upbeat music creates a cozy ambiance to unwind. 

Greeted with warm smiles and an attentive service team, my dinner mates and I knew we were in good hands, as the waitstaff were incredible at accommodating dietary restrictions — going above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable throughout our dining experience. 

Before the food even hit the table, our mouths started watering. The baos, or Chinese steamed buns, were generously filled with succulent proteins and vibrant toppings. While all of them were scrumptious, some fell a bit short compared to others. 

The Banzo, drawing inspiration from New York City halal food, featured falafel with traditional garnishes; the Burger Bao, which had a Smashburger-like bun, stood out as my least favorite of the bunch. While not inherently bad dishes, these dishes lacked the individuality that made the others shine. Both stuck to their blueprints, not bringing much else to the table. I’d have to pass on them on my next visit.

As the meal progressed, it started gaining momentum. Drawing inspiration from a beloved dish, the Nashville Hot was packed with flavor. The crispy chicken, enveloped by a thick breading, gave it a satisfying chew. Togarashi oil and tangy chili mayo make for a well-rounded heat, but the intended balance from the black vinegar pickles seemed to get lost in the heat. I would have liked either more pickles or a slightly stronger spicy version. 

Another way to balance heat is with sweetness, hence the Sweet Heat. The chicken, coated in a generous amount of chili sauce, was quite sweet, with the heat secondary. Peanuts and pickles add a toothsome crunch, concluding with a nice pop of acidity. Coriander freshens everything up with a slight herbaceousness. Despite my preference for stronger heat, this dish offered a great pop of sweetness in an otherwise rich and heavy meal. 

Our meal crescendoed into two of the most memorable dishes I have eaten all year. The Crunch Bao, a playful nod to Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme, was a textural and flavorful delight. Its crispy wonton shell contrasted beautifully with the melt-in-your-mouth pork and the crunchy peanuts added a layer of complexity, resulting in what I can only describe as a perfect bite. The braised pork’s deep and savory flavor contrasted beautifully with the bold burst of acidic kimchi. At this point, I thought we’d reached the peak of the meal until we sank our teeth into the Blackbird.

There is no way to properly explain how great this was without resorting to expletives. Having dined in some of the finest New York restaurants, I can confidently say that the Blackbird gives any of those dishes a run for their money. The black vinegar-glazed chicken, pickled onions, coriander and spicy mayo ignited our taste buds with a symphony of flavors. It elevated the contrasting flavors present in most other menu items and dialed it up to an 11. This dish was a unanimous favorite at our table. 

This gorgeous spread was accompanied by a few sides and drinks. Both displayed just as much thought and care as the mains did. 

Cold sesame noodles, affectionately named Sesame Noodz, is a classic Chinese snack with a twist. This version was dressed up with pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, chili oil and peanuts. The robust sesame flavor is backed up by a light sweet-spicy kick. 

Despite being a promising concept, the five-spice fries fell short in execution. The thin matchstick fries were soggy and under seasoned. Both things that could be easily fixable and I hope were just one-time flukes.  

The last side dish proved to be the most divisive, sparking discussion that continued even during the car ride back home. The Crispy Brussels is the hill I’m willing to die on. This is my Roman Empire for one simple reason: it’s burnt to a crisp. If you love the charred, smokey flavor of burnt food as much as I do, you’ll adore this dish. The tangy Vietnamese fish sauce caramel the brussel sprouts are soaked in brings a strong punch to the mouth. Mint and coriander brighten up such a strong dish, making it a perfectly satisfying bite. 

To go along with everything, we sipped on their Dragon Iced Tea. The light, sweet and floral jasmine tea with dragon fruit was the perfect drink to go along with the fatty, acidic food. I’d come back for this alone.

With its amazing food and drinks, warm dining space and friendly staff, Bird & Bao leaves little to be desired. Best of all, there is a fantastic deal: for just $20, you can enjoy two baos, fries and a drink. It’s an offer that’s hard not to love. However, for those with a hearty appetite, I recommend opting for the deal with an additional bao. That was enough for all of us to leave pleasantly stuffed and eagerly excited to return for more culinary delights. 

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