Tuesday, April 23, 2013

WonderBao, Melbourne CBD by Bureaucrat

To the tune of Bali Ha’i:

WonderBao may call you
Any night, any day
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:
“Come eat me... come eat me”

WonderBao will whisper
Steaming now, it’s ready:
“Here am I, braised pork bao!
Custard bao, come to me!”

(With apologies to messieurs Rodgers and Hammerstein)

I’ve been relatively slow at jumping on the bao wagon.   So when Melbourne exploded with bao places, I wasn’t exactly in a rush to try them.  And when I did try them (refer Big Fil’s review of Bao Now in Sept 2012), I wasn’t impressed.

However, I have heard lots about WonderBao being the place for bao – Big Fil and Snooze reviewed the place within days of it opening and had good things to say about it (refer his post in Aug 2012); I’ve seen it trending on Urbanspoon; and Big Fil’s review of WonderBao is the most read post we have on our blog!

So about two months ago, I was given WonderBao custard egg bao as a present from two lovely gentlemen (both who herald from the US but work and live in HK and China).  Given that these guys are likely to have eaten their fair share of baos and they thought WonderBao was good, I thought I’d give them a try.  And omg, I love WonderBao!

As such, I organised a team lunch at WonderBao.  It was kinda hard to find, despite having instructions from Big Fil.  However, once you know where it’s located, it’s quite easy to get there.  For me, the easiest way is to head down Swanston St (as if you’re heading towards RMIT), turn into Lt LaTrobe St (where the FoodWorks is) and then turn left into Literature Lane and Bob is your uncle.  Don’t try getting there via A’Beckett St because you can’t see Wonderbao and it’s not obvious where the laneways are (this is what we originally did and got lost).

It’s a tiny shop that’s surrounded with street art, with friendly hipsters standing at the ready to serve you some killer bao.

Top to bottom: nai wong bao (aka custard egg bao), fried silky tofu gua bao, braised pork belly gua bao. 

For most of us, we got the braised pork bao. This was the winner. There was dead silence was we all wolfed down the braised pork bao. The pork is melt-in-your-mouth tender, with a great fat-to-meat ratio. It’s possibly the best braised pork I’ve ever eaten. It’s flavoursome with the savoury aroma of soy sauce and star anise, and it’s topped with roasted peanuts, coriander and pickled Asian mustard greens. The bao itself is light and fluffy and not at all dense and dry (like so many other baos).  But beware – it’s waaay more filling that you think!  Despite looking small, I was really struggling to finish two savoury baos and a custard bao (and I was particularly hungry that day, too).

Left to right: custard egg bao, braised pork belly gua bao.

The custard egg bao... wow, this is the best I’ve had.  A very pleasing custard-to-bao ratio (there’s more custard than bao, which is a good thing in my books!).  The custard is fluffy, perfectly sweet and creamy textured.  I wanted to take a photo of what it looked like on the inside, but I was too busy stuffing my face to put the bao down and get my camera... :D  I’m quite proud that I’ve gotten some custard egg bao newbies hooked on this at work!

I have also tried the BBQ pork bao.  This was good but it wasn’t as impressive as the other two baos.  The same sentiment also goes for the Da Chicken Bao.  However, a few team members have tried the vegetarian ones (fried silky bao and choi bao) and have quite liked them.

Food – 9
Ambience – 7.5
Service – 9.5
Price – 10

Love the baos.  WonderBao deserves its reputation.  Great price too – lunch under a tenner and with change!

What also appeals to me is that WonderBao isn’t some dodgy Chinese restaurant that’s flogging baos with god-knows-what mystery meat.  I’m impressed with the freshness of the ingredients and the cleanliness of the place.

Despite want to try the entire range (there are 10 baos in total), I’m totally in love with the braised pork bao and the custard bao and probably won’t order anything else!

Great service and always with a smile.  Extra propz to the staff who’ve willingly took on unexpected large-ish orders from me at peak lunch time (complete with individual packaging and writing names on each package) and getting it done so quickly!

Literature Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9654 7887

Wonderbao on Urbanspoon

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