Big Bowl

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BT
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2005/07/22 04:23:15 (permalink)

Big Bowl

I have never eaten at this smallish chain ( http://www.bigbowl.com/ ), but the guy who started it and created its recipes, Bruce Cost, used to run an exceptional Asian restaurant on the ground floor of my San Francisco apartment building. That place was an independent--and not cheap as Asian places go--but Bruce seemed to me to be a stickler for standards of quality and I can't imagine he'd let them slip at his new venture, Big Bowl. Anyway, I have their cook book and use it regularly for making my favorite Asian noodle dishes. And his other book, Asian Ingredients ( http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/006093204X/qid=1122020387/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-7801152-9128665 ) is a bible for anyone interested in Asian cooking.

So have any of you been to the Big Bowl restaurants in and around Chicago, Minnesota or Reston, VA? If so, what did you think?
#1

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    GordonW
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 08:54:45 (permalink)
    We had a Big Bowl in Durham, NC, but it closed a few months back. Don't know if it was the straw that brok the camel's back, but last year they had one of those restaurant death sentence -- one of the kitchen employees was found to be in the contagious stage of Hepatatis A, and all the news media were trumpeting that anyone who ate there at the time should be checked. They closed a few months later.

    But it was good good, kind Singapore-Malay style of Chinese and some Thai. I liked the noodles; it was a favorite place of my wife and many of her friends.
    #2
    kland01s
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 09:04:10 (permalink)
    There was a Big Bowl in Wheaton, Il. right on Butterfield Road and down the road from Oak Brook with many many restaurants of all sizes, flavors and prices in between. I don't think it lasted a year. We never made it to try, as I said, there are many places of all kinds along this route.
    #3
    Pwingsx
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 16:09:20 (permalink)
    There was one of those at our newest shopping center, an upscale one. I went there once. It was beautifully conceived and way too expensive for the food amount. Trendy and pretty, but small small servings. Didn't last a year.
    #4
    Tommy2dogs
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 18:33:56 (permalink)
    Not familiar with who started Big Bowl but know that Rich Melman of Chicago (Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises leye.com) made it the concept big in Chicago. The concept was then purchased by Brinker in Dallas ( Chilis On the Border Macaroni Grill etc) After taking over several existing stores and opening several new locations and failing miserably (including the extremely popular downtown Chicago location), leye took back control of the operation and a few locations. The Dallas stores all closed after just a few months. Brinker also purchased Maggiano's/Corner Bakery from leye which was a one location operation on Clark St in Chicago. IMHO they have destoyed this concept as well.
    #5
    Shane
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 19:07:50 (permalink)
    The Big Bowl in Wheaton was horrible. We were really excited to see it arrive, we used to eat at the downtown location and decent "asian" is hard to come by around here. What a disapointment, but a sale to another company might be the reason. (Lettuce places, while not authentic in a roadfood sense, are usually pretty good) The last time we tried the takeout, we threw the food out - it was inedible.
    #6
    mousec
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 21:28:46 (permalink)
    To begin with Big Bowl is not part of a smallish chain it is currently owned by Lettuce Entertain You. They own establishements all over the country such as Mon Ami Gabi, Ben Pao, Pappagus, Wildfire, etc

    I to feel that they have gone downhill,I ate at one of there locations a few months back and it didn't knock me over as it had in the past. If you enjoy this type of cusinse I suggest that you check out P.F. Changs China Bistro. They are a bit on the pricey side, more so then Big Bowl, but the food is good and the portions are ample.

    As a side note, the food at both of these establishments have been gringoized (act of making a foreign cusine more palatable to the american taste bud and eye). If you truly enjoy Asian cusine check out some of the ma and pop places in your area that the indigenous folks populate. You will be surprised as to the quality and taste of the real thing, also the pocket book won't take such a hard hit.
    #7
    BT
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 22:26:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by mousec

    To begin with Big Bowl is not part of a smallish chain it is currently owned by Lettuce Entertain You. They own establishements all over the country such as Mon Ami Gabi, Ben Pao, Pappagus, Wildfire, etc

    I to feel that they have gone downhill,I ate at one of there locations a few months back and it didn't knock me over as it had in the past. If you enjoy this type of cusinse I suggest that you check out P.F. Changs China Bistro. They are a bit on the pricey side, more so then Big Bowl, but the food is good and the portions are ample.

    As a side note, the food at both of these establishments have been gringoized (act of making a foreign cusine more palatable to the american taste bud and eye). If you truly enjoy Asian cusine check out some of the ma and pop places in your area that the indigenous folks populate. You will be surprised as to the quality and taste of the real thing, also the pocket book won't take such a hard hit.


    Well, let me say that according to the Big Bowl web site, they have only 8 locations. Hence my classifications that they were a "smallish" chain. It doesn't mention their corporate affiliations and I don't know anything about them.

    Second, like I said, I DO know more about the guy who wrote the Big Bowl Cookbook which purports to contain recipes used in the restaurants. He is a genuine authority on Asian cooking and foods and his independent restaurant here in San Francisco put most "ma and pop places" (including many run by ma's and pop's speak only Mandarin or Cantonese) to shame. It was really good. And I think all you have to do is take a look at his book Asian Ingredients to see that he knows what he's talking about. Few "ma and pop" places use really top notch ingredients in my experience. It's easy (and more profitable) to use cheap sauces and condiments for example, just as it is to use cheap olive oil in an Italian place, but the end result shows. And Bruce advocated the best and used it in his place.

    I'm sorry to hear that the ongoing Big Bowl chain apparently no longer follows Bruce's philosophy (or maybe even uses his recipes--I use them at home and cook some very good Asian food). His place here closed after several years and my impression was the reason was because he had to charge a bit more to use the best and not enough people in this city of hundreds of Chinese places were willing to pay up. But the food was really good--by San Francisco standards and I would argue very few "ma and pop places" anywhere in America would really stand up to those standards.

    By the way--we don't have P.F. Chang's around here. There are a few in the suburbs, but not in the City. They are among the places that can't face up to the local standard apparently--or just possibly the whole concept is a little too close to being the kind of stereotype that could bring objections from the huge local Asian community.
    #8
    mousec
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 23:29:00 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by BT

    quote:
    Originally posted by mousec

    To begin with Big Bowl is not part of a smallish chain it is currently owned by Lettuce Entertain You. They own establishements all over the country such as Mon Ami Gabi, Ben Pao, Pappagus, Wildfire, etc

    I to feel that they have gone downhill,I ate at one of there locations a few months back and it didn't knock me over as it had in the past. If you enjoy this type of cusinse I suggest that you check out P.F. Changs China Bistro. They are a bit on the pricey side, more so then Big Bowl, but the food is good and the portions are ample.

    As a side note, the food at both of these establishments have been gringoized (act of making a foreign cusine more palatable to the american taste bud and eye). If you truly enjoy Asian cusine check out some of the ma and pop places in your area that the indigenous folks populate. You will be surprised as to the quality and taste of the real thing, also the pocket book won't take such a hard hit.


    Well, let me say that according to the Big Bowl web site, they have only 8 locations. Hence my classifications that they were a "smallish" chain. It doesn't mention their corporate affiliations and I don't know anything about them.

    Second, like I said, I DO know more about the guy who wrote the Big Bowl Cookbook which purports to contain recipes used in the restaurants. He is a genuine authority on Asian cooking and foods and his independent restaurant here in San Francisco put most "ma and pop places" (including many run by ma's and pop's speak only Mandarin or Cantonese) to shame. It was really good. And I think all you have to do is take a look at his book Asian Ingredients to see that he knows what he's talking about. Few "ma and pop" places use really top notch ingredients in my experience. It's easy (and more profitable) to use cheap sauces and condiments for example, just as it is to use cheap olive oil in an Italian place, but the end result shows. And Bruce advocated the best and used it in his place.

    I'm sorry to hear that the ongoing Big Bowl chain apparently no longer follows Bruce's philosophy (or maybe even uses his recipes--I use them at home and cook some very good Asian food). His place here closed after several years and my impression was the reason was because he had to charge a bit more to use the best and not enough people in this city of hundreds of Chinese places were willing to pay up. But the food was really good--by San Francisco standards and I would argue very few "ma and pop places" anywhere in America would really stand up to those standards.

    By the way--we don't have P.F. Chang's around here. There are a few in the suburbs, but not in the City. They are among the places that can't face up to the local standard apparently--or just possibly the whole concept is a little too close to being the kind of stereotype that could bring objections from the huge local Asian community.
    A quick check of the Big Bowl site does in fact make mention of Lettuce Entertain You. In fact, it is a link back to their corporate site.

    Also, a quick check of Bruce Cost on the internet indicates that he currently lives in Chicago and is working with Lettuce Entertain You on developing new restaurant concepts.

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    #9
    BT
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/22 23:44:20 (permalink)
    Monsoon was his place here that I liked. Hmmm-translating 5th century Chinese--well, like I said, he knows his stuff. I hope whatever "concepts" he comes up with aren't too much of a sellout.
    #10
    Tommy2dogs
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/23 19:36:31 (permalink)


    BT, Mousec
    In case you missed my post above, Brinker bought the Big Bowl Concept from Leye ( who I assume bought it from Bruce Cost), tried to go national and destroyed it. Leye then took back a few of the original sites and is tying to restore it to it's former self.
    #11
    plb
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/07/24 12:33:58 (permalink)
    My wife, who is Chinese, used to eat at the one in Chicago when there on business. She has tried other ones more recently in other cities and found them to be mediocre.
    #12
    aliko
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/09/09 12:45:50 (permalink)
    I went to the one on Ohio in Chicago in 2000, and 2001, and thought the food was not good at all, though the deco was nice to bring friends to.

    Then one opened up in Wheaton sometimes in 2003 or 04, 5 mins drive from my office and it quickly became my favourite lunch place to go. The food had improved so much, and the service was one of the best. I never had to ask for a drink refill, and sometimes the waiter/tres even offer to refill my drink in paper cup so I can take out with me. But one day I
    saw a Department of Health notice on the door, the Big Bowl sign is taken down, and it's closed

    Few weeks back I visited the one in Schaumburg, and was pleased with the new menu. They have some Dim Sum items now, and it's as good as the one we get from Chinese restaurant. The service there was very good as well. (Just a bonus, they were 2 very pretty young Oriental ladies sitting next to our table, and my 70-year old friend kept peeking at them )

    I think their prices are little pricy compare to everyday fast food, or chinese restaurant, but not bad compare to any other American chain, like Chili's, TGIF, etc. And Lettece gift card seems to be very popular here. I've received 3 from my friends in the recent past. I think this must be one of the least expensive Lettuce's restaurant.

    By the way, I am from Penang. If you have been to South East Asia, you will know Penang style food is being immitated everywhere.
    #13
    jeepguy
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/09/09 13:41:01 (permalink)
    Have your friend go to Chicago's Chinatown- he'll go blind from all the drop-dead gorgeous women there. My wife is from Shanghai and really,really wants to go to Big Bowl for some reason. I hope we like it!
    #14
    NYNM
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    RE: Big Bowl 2005/09/09 21:17:08 (permalink)
    I believe I ate at Big Bowl in Denver Intl Airport terminal C. If this was it, it was pretty good, for airport food. Bowls, wraps, etc. I asked if I could have Thai Chicken served on veggies rather than on rice, and they did it - it was delicious, and lighter than rice. If it wasn't Big Bowl. whatever it was was good....
    #15
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