Bao at Soho
53 Lexington Street near Oxford Circus Tube Station
Recently turned into a cult food item, evidently so with its pervasive influence across the globe, creeping into Asia HK, Sg and even all the way down to the Southern Hemisphere to the Asia Pacific region, Australia. Otherwise a simple looking Taiwanese Street food that would have only appealed to the traditional, it has undergone a clever makeover under Chef David Chang who has reinvented the dishes, do away with the traditions to create a new generation of gua bao that has successfully attracted modern urban diners. Not just is its presentation made sleeker, the bun at Bao also expresses vividly Chef Chang’s witty interpretation of fusion and modern cooking. There we were, across the road on a chilly night of 8 deg waiting for two seats as the queue starts from the opposite side of the road.
Aged Beef Rump Cap with Aged white Soy Sauce. Actually tasting 80% raw with the outside slightly seared, these thin slices of beef rump was exploding with natural sweetness and umaminess together with that aged soy sauce. £6.
Taiwanese fried chicken with Hot Sauce. £5.
Sweet Potato Chips, Plum Pickle Ketchup. These were good, but maybe not so deserving of a huge rave as it could be found easily in most parts of Asia, and actually is a cheap snack in Sg (Old Chang Kee), all made magical with that sweet potato. £3.
But the first Classic Bao that we tasted next was quite sensational. Not a fan of the fatty pork belly, the waitress recommended the classic that uses leaner cuts that have been braised beautifully in the black stew. Very moist and tasting very tender already, it was further perfected by that generous topping of flaky grounded peanuts that gave it an extra nutty body. I am actually very impressed with the peanut there as it wasn’t bitty or grainy at all (unlike what we had at Bao Makers Singapore), that allows it to melt really easily. £4.
Moving on to the Lamb Shoulder bao, this was another intriguing one. Bao really knows the key to a successful bun – the sauce and the degree of moistness their meat should have. So tender the lamb shoulder has been braised to, the chef has also creatively slathered over it the luscious coriander sauce for a beautiful cut through the heavier tasting lamb. £5.
Guinea Fowl Chi Shiang Rice. That was the bowl that caught the attention of the old American couple beside us who eventually followed our choice. Together with the tender chicken drum or thigh, its garlic condiments and fragrantly fried shallots were all instrumental in making this work. And that yellow yolk there, lifted greatly the overall taste of this bowl with its creamy runny consistency. Definitely a dish where there isn’t a redundancy in any of the elements used. £5.75.
Fried Hollicks Ice Cream. I was very skeptical of this initially to be honest after a very bad experience at Little Bao Hong Kong. Unlike the ones at Little Bao whose buns are totally fried through without much thought, the ones over here are only fried on the outside while the fluffiness within is entirely retained. And together with the milky, creamy Horlicks Ice Cream, we enjoyed it thoroughly! £4.
Some of the starters over here could have tasted simple but the real stars in the restaurants are the more complicated sides like the fowl rice and definitely like what the restaurant’s name suggests, the bao! And that was the queue when we left. 40min it should take if you are placed at the end.
Verdict: A good – excellent restaurant. 3.9/5