Probably one of the trendiest foodie spots on London, BAO offers delicious Taiwanese “street” cuisine.
My excitement couldn’t be contained, especially because when we arrived there was only a 15 minute wait. I read that in the beginning of summer, lines queued for almost an hour. I can wait a few minutes for tasty dishes, but an hour on an empty stomach is a bit much.
Beware, it’s a small shop similar to a cafe-like setting. Customers encircle a small bar where waitresses compose drinks and wash dishes. Delve a bit deeper into the depths of BAO and you’ll find a handful of tables ideal for groups of four.
I’m in love with BAO’s logo. It’s simplistic and defines the atmosphere of the shop. Similar to Americans enjoying burgers, it appears the Brits love Taiwanese cuisine.
Water is poured in slightly-larger-than-a-shot cup. For someone like me who downs a ton of water, especially after long London walks, I downed two glasses easily.
I traded my afternoon saké for afternoon tea. Waiters served an unsweetened iced tea, topped with whipped cream. The drink was perfect for cooling off from all the upcoming warm food and it didn’t hold absurd amounts of sugar, which often happens in the states.
It’s rather beautiful to watch the barista create the drink, noting the whipped cream falling slowly to the bottom of the cup.
The Eryngii Mushroom reminiscent of a long piece of portobello mushroom with the same chewy texture. It was perfectly cooked with egg-like flavors and barely any excess oil.
You would probably be afraid to order a Pig Blood Cake, but have no fear because it’s one of the best items on the menu. It’s sticky rice with soy sauce, hints of pig blood (that you can’t taste) and topped with a gooey egg yolk that easily breaks at any point of touch.
Baby trotter nuggets came crispy, light brown colored and tasted moist and flavorful. The worst part: there’s only four pieces.
Another must-order: Sweet Potato Chips, which otherwise known as fresh fries. The exterior comes dipped in fried tempura flakes with a tasty mayo sauce.
The Taiwanese Fried Chicken comes in larger pieces with a brown sauce. It’s surprisingly spicy and almost braised on the inside.
The 40-Day Rump Cap aged in white soy sauce comes thinly seared in rare-cooked style. It’s easy to take all the beef in one bite, but learn to savor each and every bite. The bits of fat on the sides actually add to the chewy texture.
The pork bao comes heavy on the dried shallots, but there’s still a good bit of pork belly in between the fluffy bao. The inside comes smothered with pork sauce that isn’t too salty for the tasting.
The Classic bao comes overflowing with crushed peanuts and braised pork. One bite and all the juicies begin to drip out (not that it’s a bad thing!).
The Lamb Shoulder bao is probably least memorable, only because the other two pork clearly take home the gold. It’s still worth the try as it comes with roasted peppers.
The Fried Chicken bao comes on a black sesame bun like a slider. There’s barely any mayo on the bottom that taste exquisite with the crispy fried and instead of classic lettuce and tomato, there’s kimchi on top.
Never skip dessert, especially at Bao. The Fried Horlicks Ice Cream Bao comes in a deep-fried sweet bun with the most perfect ball of coldness. It tasted like a light, fluffy, ice-cream filled doughnut (why isn’t this sold in the district?!) When you squish the two breads together, you can fit the whole thing in your mouth.
The debate between my beloved Baohaus and BAO goes side-by-side because they both offer two completely different atmospheres. BAO is where I would take my family for lunch/dinner, while I would enjoy Baohaus after a late night of work. The two restaurants (let’s be real, Baohaus isn’t really a restaurant) offer different outtakes on beloved Taiwanese cuisine. Whether you want “street” food, you won’t find the same quickly, made orders at BAO that you would see Eddie Huang whipping up in New York.
Yet in America, we’re seeing Asian food coming in high-end and street-market versions. While I can’t fully enjoy a high-end Americanized Korean venue, I’m always excited to see more popping up the U.S. because that’s what Murca is, a melting pot of cultures.
The verdict: it depends whether you’re looking for a quick stop home or a sit-down meal. Either way, these are the finest baos I’ve ever tasted.
BAO is located on 53 Lexington St in London. Go early, wait in line and enjoy because you can’t make a reservation here.