“This is the line, right?” it’s around 11:30am on a saturday morning and already we are queuing up for a select number of bar seats at one of Hong Kong’s hottest sandwich shops. Little Bao, much like Oddies, is situated in a hilly area of Hong Kong. A journey we weren’t looking forward to as the humidity rose above 80% and the temperature into the 30’s.
Out of breath and beginning to crave juicy meat in a bun we arrived at the restaurant and took our place on the benches outside with a half-hour wait until opening time. We were joined by both Spanish and American tourists and a handful of locals. The place from the outside resembles most hole-in-the-wall type places you tend to find scattered across Hong Kong but this looked a great deal cleaner and more inviting.
The clock hit 12 and we were in. Prime position perched on bar stools directly opposite the open kitchen which is a nice touch as you can see your food being prepared every step of the way. The staff were pleasant and used to tourists with good English spoken throughout our experience. The menu itself is a small one but big on quality with a good selection of bao’s and sharing plates with vegetarian options.
We ordered two sharing plates – one of beef short rib fried dumpling with celeriac and a second dish of truffle fries with pickled daikon. In addition to that our bao choices were the pork belly and the szechuan chicken. Good news for fans of wooden chopsticks (such as us) is that Little Bao have these as the eating utensils of choice.
First on the table were the short rib dumplings with celeriac. Slow cooked short rib is one of our favourites and wrapped inside a crisp dumpling it’s very good indeed. The best part of the dish though was the celeriac which was almost like a french remoulade dressed with mayonnaise. Great flavours and very fresh.
We noticed that many people seemed to drop by, order a bao, eat and then go so getting a seat here shouldn’t be an issue unless you are in a large group. The one slight irk about Little Bao, in a similar way to Oddies, is that the music is quite loud but for us it didn’t impact on the experience. If you are a bit delicate when it comes to noise then maybe this could be an issue but it’s all subjective.
Truffle fries, where have you been all this time? These were epic. Shiitake pieces and truffle mayonnaise on top of fries with a mound of yellow pickled daikon on the top, magic. It did feel strange eating fries with chopsticks but the flavour and portion size were spot on. Earthy taste of the mushroom and truffle livened up with the sharp, sweet daikon is a flavour we won’t forget in a hurry. You must order these.
We were so busy savouring the fries that we hadn’t noticed our bao’s appearing. The advice was from the waiting staff to try the pork before the szechuan chicken as the chicken had a strong flavour to it. The pork belly was encased in a toasted mantou bun, kind of an albino burger bun, with leek and shiso leaf salad and hoi sin. We couldn’t detect any hoi sin in there which was a shame as it’s up there with our favourite sauces. Although the pork was decent.
The real standout was the chicken bao constructed of szechuan fried chicken, szechuan mayonnaise and a coleslaw finished with black vinegar glaze. Biting into this was like a chinese chicken curry flavour, possibly from the mayonnaise. Really great texture and highlighting our weakness for fried chicken sandwiches, our favourite bao with the added bonus of mouth numbing freshness of szechuan pepper.
Even dessert comes in the form of a bao as we went for the salted caramel ice cream bao. We watched as the buns were fried like a doughnut and a round of ice cream was liberally drizzled with caramel sauce. The bao was tasty, like a fried doughnut, very sweet, the perfect way to finish a meal and make use of the napkins.
Little Bao surprised us. The quality of the cooking and the freshness of the ingredients puts it a level above your average sandwich bar. The flavours were generally excellent and the size of the bao’s actually surprised us. They look a lot smaller in pictures but in reality are very substantial. The final bill arrived at $576 HKD (£57.60) so it’s not the cheapest food in the city. However it could well be amongst the most tasty.
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday 1800-2300
Saturday 1200-1600, 1800-2300
Sunday 1200-1600, 1800-2200
Nearest Metro: Central