A Table for How Many? at BBC Asian Cafe & Bar

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Stefani Pollack is the author of the food blogs Cupcake Project and Food Interviews. She is also a member of the St. Louis Dinner Club. She blogs about her large-group dining experiences twice a month for Gut Check.

BBC Asian Cafe & Bar
243 North Euclid Avenue
314-361-7770

"I'd go back."

"I'll be back!"

"Let's pick a day to come back!"

"This place has their act together!"

Fun bubble-tea drinks set a festive mood, unique and tasty food made our stomachs happy, and a server who kept our glasses full and split our check with no errors made for a relaxed and enjoyable group experience.

Since everything went so smoothly, I'm going to talk about some parts of the group dining experience that don't typically get mentioned in this space: music and ketchup.

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What's on Your iPod?

When you are groovin' at home, in the car or at the gym, you may like switching quickly from Les Miserables' "Castle on a Cloud" to "Shake Your Bootie" by KC and the Sunshine Band. But typically during meals, the music sets a tone. It fades into the background as you immerse yourself in table talk. A switch from one genre to the next (e.g., from classical to modern country) makes you notice the music and distracts you from your meal.

The night Dinner Club went to BBC, the music was provided by someone's iPod Shuffle. (We know this because we asked about it.) We heard Asian techno music, "Jesse's Girl" by Rick Springfield and "Let's Get it On" by Marvin Gaye. Each song change caused at least one quizzical look at our table.

Rather than blending into the background, the music filled any conversational void we had. Discussions began to revolve around the songs and artists. Many of the songs, such as Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" and the Flashdance song ("What a Feeling" by Irene Cara) had parts of the table singing along.

Although many of us enjoyed the eclectic music, and I'm not one to encourage rigid standardization, I think it might be wise for BBC to put just a bit more thought into their musical choices -- maybe vary the style each night instead of each minute.

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Banana Ketchup

To our excitement, BBC offered sweet potato chips with banana ketchup. It's so rare to see anything other than tomato ketchup at a restaurant -- in fact, I'm not sure that I've ever seen another kind -- that we got several orders for the table so everyone would get to try the banana variety. Perhaps naively, I expected our banana ketchup to taste like mashed bananas with some spices.

When the banana ketchup arrived at our table, we were quite surprised to find that it tasted -- and looked -- just like tomato ketchup. Only my husband claimed he could pick up the flavor of banana. We were so perplexed that one of our members asked our server for more information.

Our server solved the mystery of the banana ketchup by bringing a bottle of it to the table. It turns out that it's called banana sauce; it's produced by a company called Jufran. A scan of the ingredients showed that banana is actually the third ingredient (after water and sugar), there are a bunch of nameless "spices", and yes, there is artificial color to make it look red like tomato ketchup.

We must be getting older when "spin the bottle" is replaced by the thrill of "pass the banana ketchup bottle."

Tapas vs. Entrees

One small thing to note is that the crêpes at BBC (think Asian-style food in a crêpe, not a breakfast crêpe) are considered hot tapas and will be served before entrée items. Those who got entrée items had a bit of a longer wait. We should have expected that, but most of us ordered crêpes as entrées and then wondered why the rest of the food wasn't served simultaneously. Clearly a case of user error, but I wouldn't want others to make the same mistake.

I've driven or walked through the Central West End many times seeking out a place to eat, and while there are many choices in that neighborhood, I will never again overlook BBC. It's the perfect place to bring a group of adventurous eaters ready to explore.
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