It is always difficult when you place yourself as someone who has knowledge about food because you inevitably get asked about where to go for dinner and I often find myself trying to match the people and occasion to the right place. It is increasingly hard in London where new restaurants are popping up all over the place and to varied abilities. I have honestly had as many disappointing meals as I have successful ones. Many times the hype does not match my own personal experience.

This weekend I was meeting friends over from South Africa and with the rand making everything so expensive, I needed to find a great cheap eat. So my mind went straight to Asian, which is not only the tastiest food around right now but also the most interesting for me. I find myself drawn to it every time I want a good meal.

Over ten years ago now, David Chang took the New York food scene by storm with Momofuku and since then it has gone from strength the strength. The pork belly bun earned its own fan club, followed closely by the lines queuing up for the crack pie and cereal milk ice cream. The savoury bun took the Asian bao into a new modern era by opening up these soft steamed pillows and filling with sticky slices of pork belly, hoisin sauce, quickly pickled cucumbers, spring onions and a dash of sriracha if you want. Hot, spicy, sweet, sticky it was a mouthful to beat all mouthfuls and stayed with me for some time after I returned home.

bao-taiwanese-steamed-buns-restaurant-soho-london-menu

It was much copied and I found Yum Bun doing a great impression of the original at Eat Street in Kings Cross before they went on to open a bricks and mortar place to showcase their creations. And others followed suit. But it was really only this year that the bao bun had a resurgence and that comes with the restaurant, suitably and simply named Bao. What more do you want? So I took my friends to this tiny space in Soho with pared back seating, simple hanging for coats and bags, staff in white coats and a small menu of perfect mouthfuls.

Fried chicken bao

Fried chicken bao

We shared many of the dishes between us savouring the balance of flavours. We started with pickles which are almost obligatory at any self respecting restaurant these days. And very good they were too. Tasty aged beef in white soy and really hot and spicy fried chicken was followed with guinea fowl rice served with a well placed egg yolk to be stirred through. But the heroes for us were those boa buns. Chicken was served in a sesame pillow, pork belly with sweet and sour flavours and the classic, well my favourite to be sure, with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, herbs and more pickles.

The classic

The classic

 

At £50 for the three of us including sake it was a great value meal. But beware, you will have to queue. We put our names on the list and then popped into the next door pub for a really good G&T. Just make sure you don’t miss your place in the queue because there will always be someone waiting to pounce behind you. But know that it is worth the wait.

Beautiful pickles

Beautiful pickles

 

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