The Statler's been going hard with the openings this year: the diner Overeasy, cocktail bar Bourbon & Banter, adult playspace Scout, rooftop bar Waterproof and, most recently, Fine China, chef Angela Hernandez's take on new American Chinese cuisine.
Now, it's tossed another concept into the mix: R&B, a new fast-casual ramen and bao spot that opened this week with the intention of serving fun fusion bao and Japanese ramen to downtown lunch and late-night crowds. Hernandez and chef de cuisine Josh Bonee developed the menu, and the concept and interior are equally simple: order at the counter from a small menu of ramen and bao, and chances are you'll be out the door with a full belly in 20 minutes if you're in a rush.
We suggest hanging around to sample wildly from this tiny menu. On our visit, we tried one of every bao plus an order of tater tots, okonomiyaki style ($4) with kewpie mayo, Bull-Dog Sauce, pickled ginger and bonito flakes waving in the air-conditioned breeze. Every bao plus a side set us back $40 and made for a fun tasting lunch for two.
On this round, we didn't sample from the ramen menu (which does, in fact, feature a chilled heirloom tomato mazemen) since it's approximately 7,000 degrees outside. The bao menu was just too enticing: cheesebao-ger ($4.50), wagyu beef pastrami ($6.50), pork belly katsu ($4.50), edamame falafel ($4.50), hot fried chicken ($4.50), banh mi ($4.50) and the Dirty Joe ($4.50), made with spicy pork ragu and a handful of shredded cheddar cheese.
These perfectly fluffy, cloudlike bao are more fusion than traditional, and they're a lot of fun. The cheesebao-ger was overflowing with American cheese atop a perfectly juicy, medium-rare patty. The wagyu beef pastrami was huge for a bao, the bun overflowing with salty pastrami and crispy fried onion. The banh mi did a great job fusing the best of both worlds: a Chinese bao bun with vibrant Vietnamese vibes from chicken meatballs, fresh veggies and fish sauce.
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We stopped by on R&B's second day, but we're already craving another visit. A concept like this just makes sense downtown: It's quick, casual and available on weekends until 4 a.m., which is a dream come true for those making an Uber exodus from Deep Ellum.
R&B at the Statler, 1914 Commerce St. (Downtown). Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 9 p.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.