Little Bao proved so successful with their pop up bao stall at Hong Kongs hipster Island East Farmers market back in 2012 that it was only going to be a matter of time before they found a permanent home. Chef/Owner May Chow has been winning even more praise for her creative culinary approach since opening Little Bao www.little-bao.com in Hong Kongs Central in late 2013 and I was extremely excited to have the opportunity to visit on my recent whistle-stop tour of Hong Kong with my friends Nianne and Anna.
Styled as an “American diner with a modern Asian twist” Little Bao puts a fresh, modern spin on familiar Asian dishes and ingredients, with dishes like Roasted Brussels Sprouts candied in a caramel fish sauce or Mac and Cheese made using steamed rice rolls and mentaiko (spicy cod roe) cheese and with its strict no-reservations policy, this tiny restaurant is packed from opening til close.
We were lucky to squeeze in just before last orders and I set about choosing couple of dishes for us to share whilst the girls chose which bao they wanted to try. We started with some of the aforementioned Brussels Sprouts which came served in a small earthenware bowl, the still crunchy sprouts coated liberally in a sweet and sticky fish sauce caramel with toasted peanuts and pickled chillis on top. I knew at this point we were going to be in for an exciting meal and whilst we could only persuade Anna to try one tiny sprout, Nianne and I were in heaven!
I had also chosen some Truffle Fries with shitake tempeh, truffled mayo and pickled daikon from their daily changing specials which merged the earthy umami flavours of the shitake and truffle with the sweetness of the mayo beautifully, definitely the best truffle fries I have ever eaten! The last of our sharing dishes was another huge success, Eggplant and Pork Tempura where crispy eggplant had been stuffed with minced pork and shiso and then coated in a light tempura batter before being fried and served with ume ponzu dipping sauce. The dipping sauce was so tangy and tart it caught me completely off guard but it was completely addictive and the perfect sauce to cut through the fried pork.
Now for the serious bao business! Anna chose the daily special Spicy Fried Chicken Bao with chilli garlic, black bean mayo and a scallion coleslaw, Nianne the classic Pork Belly Bao with slow braised pork belly, leek and shiso red onion salad, sesame dressing and hoisin ketchup and I decided to try the Sloppy Chan with Taiwanese braised shitake tempeh, truffle mayo, sweet pickled daikon and fried shallot even though the waiter kindly pointed out it was very similar to the truffle fries. We were just as impressed with the service as we were with the food and they were in no hurry for us to leave even though we were the last people there, the staff even came to have a chat with us about the weekends plans (we did pay early so they could start the cash up process though!)
The bill (including all the food, a tip, one bottle of very good Californian pinot noir and 2 additional glasses of wine) came to 5000 THB putting it inline with many similar restaurants in Bangkok and whilst not a budget option it is even better value when you consider the fact that things in Hong Kong are generally much pricier. I really thought the whole experience was excellent and I am still dreaming of all the dishes we ate & will definitely go back when I next get the opportunity to visit Hong Kong.