Back in the day, Dallas "Asian food" used to mean Chinese, and "Chinese" meant "If you are a child/coward we also serve fried chicken" -- but now so many Asian nations are represented it's impossible to decide between them. Bringing them all together for you, Bistro Babu-san, opening Sunday.
Babu's a fast-casual concept from two resto vets (Bengal Coast/Zinsky's, Genghis Grill) that mashes up fare from India, Thailand, Japan, China, Korea, and Vietnam into sub-$10 dine-in/takeout dishes; the warmly hued space melds the modern (sleek triangular bar, interactive flat-screen menus) with the antiquated (giant potted reeds, elephant statues) around an open kitchen and a transparent wall displaying colorful spices sandwiched in acrylic, which still tastes terrible even with the spices. Conceived by Bengal Coast's chef, the menu kicks off with the likes of spiced cheddar-stuffed naan w/ pickled onion & cilantro, spinach/shiitake roasted pork ramen, and wraps like grilled marinated steak with ranch, ginger, red onion slaw, and, to ward off vampires with nut allergies, peanut-garlic glaze. Eight stir fry/curry mains offer a choice of four meats, and are categorized under Mild ("Bombay Tomato Butter": spinach, onion, roasted corn, beans, flavored w/ cardamom/fenugreek/cumin) or Spicy ("Bangkok Fire": bok choy, snap peas, onion, in lemongrass/basil/lime chili sauce); there're also skewers of teriyaki beef, chicken tikka, spicy shrimp, and 5-spice pork, plus sides like spiced Thai fries and marinated "Cool Kimchee Slaw" -- though as any after-school special will tell you, getting pickled is not cool. Learning is.
Babu's bar'll stock four beers to start (including Kingfisher and Chang), plus around 15 wines and four signature cocktails, two involving spiked mango lassi and coconut, and a couple of frozen mixes using rum/lychee/basil and tequila/blueberry/lavender -- a far cry from when "frozen drink" meant daiquiri, and "daiquiri" meant you were probably still a child.