Last Friday, following a few drinks at a pop-up farmer’s market at PMQ opposite, my husband and I stumbled across the road into Little Bao for dinner. This wasn’t inadvertent, we were drawn to the delectable fusion between Chinese “bao”, those slightly sweet, white, puffy buns that are a staple of bamboo steamers the continent over and the all-American burger. This is what little bao is all about, East meets West flavours, sandwiched into a pillowy bao. The result, I am pleased to report, is delicious.
To kick off our meal we chose to share three of the sharing plates. After an agonising decision given they all sounded so tempting, we opted for a lamb tartare with tofu crisps; beef short rib pan-fried dumplings and the “LB” fries. Each was delicious. I have never had a lamb tartare before and it was a combination that worked well – finely diced lamb mixed with fermented beancurd mayo, takana and spring onion. The tofu crisps were interesting – to look at they appeared like a cross between large prawn crackers and a big hunk of pork crackling. To taste however they were slightly crunchy and relatively modest on flavour. That being said, they worked well to scoop up hunks of the tartare, creating a novel and yummy dish.
The dumplings were scrummy. Hubby and I are big dumpling fans and there were no complaints from us – crispy on the outside with plenty of juicy and tender beef on the inside.
The fries were chosen to accompany our bao burgers and it was a hard choice between the two fries on the menu – LB or Truffle fries. The LB fries are spiced with mirin, thai spice and roasted tomato sambal. The overall effect is a medley of citrusy sweet spice with a hint of heat from the sambal encasing a crisp and perfectly fried fry!
On to the bao burgers, again a tricky choice – I wanted one of each, but realised that was probably a case of eyes bigger than tummy. We went for one beef and one pork belly. The beef bao was definitely emulating its burger cousin – beef with tomato jam, onion sesame mayo, cheddar cheese and shiso. The sesame and shiso were subtle nods to its eastern influence and the result was impressive – succulent meat encased in a rich melted cheese cocoon, sandwiched into the bao, comfort food heaven. The pork belly was equally tasty with a decent slab of meat, again flavoured with shiso, sesame and a hoisin ketchup. Even though the menu stipulates no bao cutting, if you go with a friend you’ll be able to at least nibble through half of each! The menu includes 3 other baos – a Szechuan fried chicken, fish tempura or sloppy chan, which is the veggie option. I definitely want to try them all next time we go!
For dessert there are two baos – a green tea ice cream with condensed milk or salt ice cream with caramel, we shared the latter as we are both salted caramel obsessives. I can promise you that if you have a sweet tooth, you won’t be disappointed!
A word about the vibe at the restaurant – it’s a tiny, no bookings place (expect a wait at busy times) with an open kitchen and bar-stool seating. The music is loud and the service young and attentive. The overall atmosphere definitely gives you that Friday feeling. All in all little bao has all the ingredients for a fun-filled way to kick start your evening.
For two: circa $700-$900 depending on number of drinks – we had 3 sharing plates, 2 baos, 1 dessert and 2 drinks for $780 inc service. For Hong Kong this seemed quite reasonable to us.
Baos are priced at around $78-$88 with sharing plates from $78 to $138.
Address: 66 Staunton Street, Central