Last Update
Feb 5th, 2019

Casa Sensei

1200 E Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale FL, 33301
954 530-4176
Overall Rating
2.4
Food
Service
Ambiance
Value
Last Review
08/21/2018

Details

Hours: M-W 4p-10:30p Fri 11:30a-11:30p, Sun 11:30a-10:30p
Dress Code: Casual
Parking: Street Metered
CC: Yes
Alcohol: Full Bar
Outdoor: Yes
Reservations: Yes

Pros

Waterfront Location
Attractive Bar/Lounge

Cons

Expensive Asian Food for Dinner
Disorganized or Dishonest at Lunch
Small Indoor Space on Rainy/Windy Days

Critic's Review

I noticed that BAO had a new lunch menu with more reasonable prices; their prices previously were way too high across the board. The menu we have was posted on Facebook on Aug 7; remember this.

This place had been up for sale for a while and new ownership took over a few months ago; the plan is to close in September, remodel, and re-open as a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant. When has that idea ever worked? To me, "Asian Fusion" means overpriced; Asian food is cheap, so if you want to charge more you call it Asian Fusion.

While parking down here on a weekend is challenging, at lunch time there are usually some metered spots right across the street (with the old style coin meters). The city is in the process of ruining Las Olas, and to my horror they seem to have eliminated yet-another parking spot with some sort of loading zone. Notice the meter in the zone; Bao has a loading dock in their garage so it's not for them.

Luckily I got a spot and the meter didn't eat my change (inside joke). $1.25 / hour in this area.

They advertise this as a riverfront venue, but there's never anyone outside during the day. And you can't really see the river from the inside bar area.

They had a menu display in front of the door which only had a dinner menu; I checked my phone and it was only 2:20p. I opened the door to an empty restaurant and quipped "Are you still serving lunch"?

A dude said "Yes" and when I mentioned that I'd seen a lunch menu on their page, he nervously "remembered" that they did have a lunch menu. "Oh, so it's only if you know about it!", I half-joked, and they seemed to think that was funny. As if running a restaurant is some sort of joke. "I'll have to see if I can find it", he said, as he pulled a piece of paper from a drawer and showed me to a table.

I was the only person in the front; apparently there was a table in the back as well.

The menu they gave me didn't include the bowls; it wasn't the same menu as they have posted on Facebook. I mentioned this to my server, and he again nervously acknowledged that the lunch menu did in fact include bowls; claiming that they were waiting on the printer for the new menus. You don't have a laser printer? Heard of Kinko's? They can send you a PDF but they can't get a couple of menus printed in 2 weeks for their 2 lunch customers? Bullshit.

I ordered the Bulgolgi bowl, and a side of pork dumplings. I asked if they could steam the dumplings instead of frying them and he said they could. I noticed after getting home that the lunch is supposed to come with soup or salad. No mention of that from my server.

Nothing going on here in terms of music; the food came out in 9 minutes.

The lunch bowls are smaller portions than the dinner bowl, which is 26.50. How big could the dinner bowl be?

The dumplings looked a bit raw and in fact they were; There weren't steamed long enough.

The filling tasted like a ball of pork; no asian taste and the sauce was nothing also. I was only having 2 now so I didn't send them back; I'd take them home and cook them properly for a snack.

The bowl, while it tasted pretty good, was a fraudulent offering of the menu description. The menu states:

24 Hour Marinated Thin Sliced Steak in Korean BBQ Sauce, Gochujang, Enoki Mushrooms and Jasmine Rice

The steak was the same meat you'd get in Beef w/Broccoli; Gochujang which is a red chili paste was totally undetected; the bowl had zero kick; and do you see any Enoki Mushrooms in the bowl?

You don't, because there weren't any. So I wanted Korean BBQ beef and I got a bowl of beef fried rice. Not bad tasting, but not what was on the menu.

I polished off the stuff in the bowl leaving most of the rice, and asked for a take home container for the dumplings and my check.

Adding insult to injury, I was overcharged for the bowl:

So they charged me $1 too much for the bowl and they didn't give me the soup or salad that's supposed to come with it. And not only do they not have printed menus, but their POS system doesn't have the correct pricing.

Conclusion

So what we have is a restaurant that doesn't show you the lunch menu, tries to give you the wrong menu if you ask, and then overcharges you and don't give you what's on the menu. Can you say "Bad Restaurant"?

The new owners of BAO seem to either not know how to run a restaurant or they're purposely trying to cheat people; either of which gets the a big AVOID rating from me.

STAY AWAY FROM THESE PEOPLE.

Review 9/2/14

It took me 6 years to go into Wild East when it was at this location. I'm not sure why; it just seemed too expensive for Chinese food. I usually don't like eating in Asian restaurants, so what's the point of paying for an expensive address when doing take-out? But after checking out Temple Street Eatery last week, I wanted to see what this place was like. It's a similar concept; the staggeringly boring trend of "small plates".

This restaurant arguably has the nicest and most tranquil waterfront location in the city. Wild East had some retro metal mesh furniture outside; Bao has some nicer wood furniture. Unfortunately it's still too hot to sit outside, at least during the day.

Inside, I like what they've done. Wild East had a bunch of tables in an uninteresting dining room; here the inside is set up as a big bar/lounge, which is good at lunch time. The downside is that there isn't much indoor space for dinner, unless you want to eat in the bar. The small indoor space is an issue on rainy or windy evenings, or even on very hot nights. I'm not sure how the A/C is in the covered, open-air dining area.

They have 3 nice big booths were you won't be able to see the people next to you. You can hear them, however; more on this later.

The menu is small and simple for lunch; bowls, Bao Buns or "small plates". Another place where small plates are $8-13, so you can't really order too many of them. I wanted to try the Bao Buns (since that's the name of the restaurant), which is the Asian version of the slider. You only get 2 of them for $10; I also ordered the "Pork Dumplings"; there was no indication of how many, but they sounded interesting.

Iced Tea came out; one oddity was that they only have no-calorie sweeteners; no sugar. I can't recall ever seeing that before. Maybe they were just out and didn't notice?

Considering that there were only 3 tables, the wait was very long; it seemed even longer with the screaming kid in the booth behind me. I'm willing to pay extra at restaurants with "No Screaming Kids" signs out front.

The music is the "Soothing" kind; no lyrics, just something you'd expect to hear from a device you bought at Brookstone.

They have an open kitchen; you can see the chef but you can't really see what he's doing, at least not from my vantage point.

It took about 20 minutes to make the 2 plates; too long for lunch with nothing else going on at the table. They came out together.

I didn't anticipate the fries and the salad, The menu says that you get fries OR salad, but my server didn't ask. Hopefully they decided to give both which is a good move; it brings it closer to the $10 value.

The dumpling also surprised me; I didn't expect pot stickers.

The dumplings were good and so was the sauce; definitely better than Temple Street. The Bao Buns unfortunately got a lower score. The problem was that the buns were doughy; they're supposed to be "pillowy". These buns served no culinary purpose; they were not yet bread.

My theory is that the reason it took so long is that the buns didn't rise as expected. On it's own, the skirt steak wasn't anything special; there certainly wasn't much of it.

The salad was quite good, despite the weeds, and the sweet potato fries were the best I've had in recent memory.

Sweet potato fries usually sound better than they are, but the crunch on the outside made these stand out.

Service was excellent; the less than stellar rating takes into account the time it took for the food to come out, but my server did a nice job. The "director of guest relations" was there, but he didn't bother to ask anyone at any of the tables what they thought.

Conclusion

Even though I didn't love everything I had, I enjoyed the experience at Bao. Depending on the crowd, this could be a really nice bar, which I think is that they're trying to achieve. It's a great location right on a canal, so when it cools off outside dining will be a definite plus. Given the amount of time it took to make 2 small plates; I'm not sure how well they handle a full restaurant. My check was $22, which is probably a few dollars too much, but at least you can justify it by realizing that the rent here is top dollar. If I'm going to pay $20 for lunch, it ought to be a positive experience, as this was.

Comment Policy Add Comment
Administrator
Reply
The new (bad) owners of this place have renamed it Casa Sensei featuring an Asian-Latin Fusion theme.

Just $30 for sushi for 1.
Administrator
Reply
No longer open for lunch Mon through Thu. I guess you pay dinner prices Fri to Sun.
Ray
Reply
Good review and mirrors my experience as well. With one exception, the food is way too sweet. As a group, we tried 9 different dishes and they all followed the theme of sticky sweet. Replete with cotton candy as a going away serving, its sugar, sugar, sugar.

As far as portions go, while not large, they are satisfying. There is a steadily growing number of people that are capable of judging a meal without a need to stuff themselves with untold quantities of food or, don't need to take leftovers home as they can cook their own food. I believe its good some restaurants are toning down portion sizes. For those who want mounds of food, there's certainly no shortage of restaurants to satisfy this need.

Even though none of our party would return due to the sweet glazes, I'm glad restaurants like this are opening on Las Olas. At least as an alternative to the buckets of mediocre food that predominates the area.
Administrator
Reply
What you seem to miss is that while they're "toning down portions", they're charging the same prices as for the large portions. The old trick was to give you twice the amount of food you need for twice the price, justifying it by the portion. Now they've eliminated the salad, one of the sides and shrunk the portion while still charging $28 for an entrée. It's certainly nothing to be celebrated.
Terri
Reply
Bravo! Exactly right!
Bradley
Reply
Overpriced and pretty average asian appetizers are found here. Portions are small, you basically get 2 chicken buns, which is like two chicken sliders (featuring about 1/4 the chicken of a normal sandwich) for $10. They posted a menu on Facebook a few weeks back and already raised their prices on most items. Manager was mostly concerned with finding the right kind of music when we were there. They seem obsessed with this "Beta Lounge" thing they keep promoting on their Facebook doubt there is much hope for this one.

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