Two Palate Dining: Big Bowl
She Said: Big Bowl
I have loved Asian food since I was a little girl. My aunt had a friend come home from college with her over a break and I’ve been interested in Asian cuisine ever since they cooked it for us. There is rarely a week in this house when we don’t eat at least one kind of stir-fry. I also love to eat Asian food when we go out to restaurants. But, I have a really hard time picking a place to be loyal to in most cases. We are always looking for new restaurants to fill holes in our list of go to places. There are tons of Asian restaurants but I don’t feel comfortable in all of them. This is because I want my food to be really flavorful, not greasy and served in a comfortable (and clean) environment. We’ve tried a lot of places in the past that could only live up to one requirement and a few that didn’t live up to any! I was really excited about Big Bowl, but there were some definite problems with our dining experience.
It’s a gorgeous restaurant on the inside. It’s got a lot of polished wood and some really cool lighting fixtures (like the take out box- I want one!). I thought that the dining room was lovely. Our server and all of the staff we interacted with very friendly. It definitely is a comfortable atmosphere. Since their menu is made of different types of Asian cuisine (Chinese, Thai, etc) it’s a little overwhelming to choose a dish, but I would rather have too many options than too few.
When you are a first time guest they bring you a little dish of vegetable spring rolls with house made spicy peanut sauce. And they are awesome! They are cold and green tasting like spring with this awesome sweet/spicy nutty taste from the sauce. I could eat a ton of them! I really appreciate that something so delicious doesn’t break the calorie bank. It’s really great that they do that, I mean how many restaurants these days give you an amuse bouche?
We ordered the chicken potstickers and they were really great. I love a good potsticker (or dumpling) and these were really good! The wrapper was cooked just right and the filling had a good earthy flavor, too. The three sauces they were served with were all good except for one. I loved the sweet plum and the soy-ginger dip was awesome. The spicy mustard sauce was not good. But I don’t like wasabi or mustard so if you like those flavors served in very strong quantities you might like this.
I don’t know what got into me when I was reading the menu but I decided to be adventures. That’s a really big deal for me because I’m not usually that adventurous at restaurants I’m familiar with let alone a brand new one. I ordered Sichuan Pork Belly I have seen pork belly served several times on Top Chef and always thought that it looked delicious. Well, it may look good on Top Chef, but the pork belly served at Big Bowl was just burnt bacon. It was terrible! It was charred and burnt tasting. Texture wise eating it was like chewing on wood. The sauce it was served with was spicy but not very good. The vegetables it was served with were so GREEN; do you know what I mean? I couldn’t discern distinct vegetable flavors rather I was overwhelmed with a continual sensation of yard clipping. It was quite possibly one of the worst things I have ever eaten in a restaurant.
RJ was surprised I was so adventurous with my order and thankfully ordered something sensible. I ended up eating half of his smartly selected Chicken Teriyaki Fried Rice. It was pretty tasty. I don’t actually like fried rice very much, but this was really nice. The rice wasn’t overcooked, it was actually quite tender. The sauce tasted nice. The chicken wasn’t microscopic or that really strange “chicken parts scrap” texture you sometimes get in restaurants. The vegetables were a little too generically green not distinguishable except for the peppers. I really like the egg pieces, which were actually fluffy. I’m very glad that my sweetheart let me have some of his dinner.
I kind of wish that we had ordered dessert, but I was a bummed about not liking my meal. Next time, I’m ordering a bunch of appetizers and I’m finally going to try mochi!
It’s a beautiful restaurant with great service. And I love their commitment to giving people fresh, quality food. I’ll probably give them another try. I’ll just stick to something a little more familiar to my palate.
Vegetable Spring Rolls- 10
Chicken Potstickers- 8
Sichuan Pork Belly- 0
Chicken Teriyaki Fried Rice – 4
He Said Big Bowl
I’ve always wanted to try Big Bowl in Reston Town Center. It always smelled great, and the plates of people eating outside that I would see were always very enticing. When we finally did get to eat there, it was worth the wait.
The décor inside is really fun. It references Asian style, and Chinese food, but doesn’t mock it. This isn’t some hipster hangout, this is a case of impression being the sincerest form of flattery.
When they found out that we were first time customers, they gave us a free amuse bouche. Note to other restaurants: if you have something that is a house favorite, you should do this too. The amuse was a small version of their vegetable spring rolls served over peanut sauce. I loved the peanut sauce. What a great thing to add spice to the spring roll. It did a surprisingly great job for the price point of what amuses are supposed to do; it announced what the meal was going to be, and it made me want to eat more.
Then came the chicken pot stickers with three different sauces. They tasted pretty good on their own, the only thing that didn’t work for me is that they were a little too herby. Nothing that would keep me from eating them, but just a touch too much in my opinion. The sauces were what really made this dish delicious. The soy ginger and sweet plum sauces are both very flavorful and quite an adventure. The spicy mustard is a little more rough around the edges, but definitely packs plenty of punch.
After that we moved on to the entrees. Kari ordered the Sichaun Pork Belly. I was really proud of her for ordering something so out of the box. I wound up eating most of it, but it wasn’t due to any lack of adventure in Kari, it just wasn’t well executed. The pork belly was way overcooked. I liked the taste of the noodles themselves, but the sauce was hard to describe other than middle of the road. It was spicy, and I wanted to like it, but there were some unwelcome notes that I couldn’t place. There was also a tremendous amount of some green that wasn’t listed on the menu as being part of the dish. That left the most of the dish tasting like yard clippings. This is not what pork belly is supposed to be.
I ordered the Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Fried Rice. It was awesome. This wasn’t what I expected in fried rice at all. The rice is sautéed in soy sauce, instead it is a lightly sautéed jasmine rice that has the toppings and sauce served over top of it. Even though it looked different on the plate, it still had everything I like in fried rice. It had little bits of cooked egg, and peas and carrots. The chicken was tender and well cooked, unlike the pork belly. The sauce was sweet and yummy. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to take it slow and eat each element on its own, or just mix it all together and see what wound up in each bite. I did a little of each, and really enjoyed it.
I’ll definitely go back to Big Bowl and order something else next time. I loved what I got, but there’s so much else on the menu that looks so good.
Vegetable Spring Roll- 9
Chicken Potstickers- 6
Sichaun Pork Belly- 1
Teriyaki Glazed Chicken Fried Rice- 9