THE INFAMOUS LITTLE BAO
I finally tried it. Yup. It was the hip restaurant of HK for 2013 Q4 & 2014 Q1 and I’ve gathered enough courage to try it. I say courage because it is well known for their 2 hour queues. Did I manage that feat, especially given that I hate waiting? Read on to find out!
The owner was on site, May Chow, and she told me that she first started just for fun as a food stand at the Island East Market and has now conceptualized it to be a full diner. She’s pretty spunky, awesome and above all, really nice.
Bao means bun in Chinese (well, to be exact, bao in different tones can mean different things, but we are talking about specifically for this purpose).
More specifically, it means the Chinese steamed white buns that you see at dimsum. Little Bao has a great concept – and it’s to use those buns as hamburger buns, and fill it with “hip” hamburger type fillings inside. It is the perfect formula because…
What do Hongkees love the most?
A good gimmick
= LITTLE BAO (TADAH!!!)
It’s a hip restaurant that is targeted more at the expat and Westernized crowd. I say this due to their location, fusion-ed menu (and a section dedicated all to alcoholic drinks, ahem!), price, and ambience (dark and hipster-y).
‘Ya see, Hongkees love to try new restaurants; once there’s a new restaurant opening, there is an immediate urgency for everybody (including if you’re a somebody or a nobody) to try it. If it is good, then the word of mouth thing and internet viral thing happens and it will be booked and full for at least 6 months or longer.
Little Bao, has a occupancy rate of 20, at most 25. It’s tiny. It’s tinier than tiny. It’s dinky tiny. No reservations allowed and it opens at 6pm. For reasons that elude me, Hongkees LOVE to queue, or rather, they’re really good and patient at it, so even if you make it at 6pm, there might already be a queue of 15 standing outside. I know, it’s insane – they’re Q Masters.
Now that things have bao-ed down, or so we assume, we decided to go check it out. We did everything in our power to decrease our wait time – we went on a Tuesday, and I got off on the dot at 6pm to get there at 6:45pm to go put our name down on the waitlist.
It was already full with the first cycle of bao eaters?!?! We ended waiting for about 30 mins, so it wasn’t too bad. Thank bao-ness.
NOTE: No clue what happened, but I guess the heat melted my brain and I totally forgot to take pictures of the exterior. It’s more retro, with pink neon lights like those 60’s diners, if that helps. It’s modern retro and not lame neon retro.
All the prices end in 8, which in Chinese culture, is a very lucky number because 8 sounds like “wealth/rich/prosperous”. I definitely liked that finishing touch/concept detail, but I’m not sure if that was the intention.
There’s also an app-ies menu on the other side and a Specials menu hanging above the open kitchen.
The food & taste:
Started with their Short Rib Pan Fried Dumpling @ $118 HKD:
It’s Asian comfort food with an expensive twist.
Organic beef with coleslaw on the bottom. We were told to eat the dumpling with the coleslaw together. It was pretty dayum good, I must admit. The coleslaw adds a bit of a crunch to the very juicy and succulent beef. Fantastic juxtaposition of the flavours. Yum. An order gets you 4 dumplings at $118 HKD so they’re definitely not cheap, but good for sharing.
Next came the K Wings @ 9$8 HKD which were from the Specials menu.
Wasn’t a winner for me at all. The breading was too thick and the texture was neither here or there and fell somewhere in the soggy category.
A funny phenomenon would happen where my wing would “shed” the breading and detach itself upon taking a bite. The flavours of the breading also didn’t permeate into the chicken wings and so the breading was super tangy, but the wing was super bland and blanched. Sad face. An order comes with 3 wings at $98 HKD.
Bring on the BAOS because we aren’t 飽 (“bao” meaning full) yet!
Pork Belly Bao @ $78 HKD:
Okay, this is where it’s at. This is the reason for the existence of this diner. Nomnomnom. The Pork Belly Bao is their signature bao and it is yummy in my tummy. The pork belly is juicy and saucy and it went well with the steam white bun.
There is no bao cutting (halving it for you) and it makes sense. The bao is very small and barely held together as is; there is no way to contain all that sauce and fatty goodness together if you were to halve it.
Here’s another look at it, whereby you can compare the bao to plate ratio to see how small it is:
The Chicken Bao @ $78 HKD:
It was good but paled in comparison if you’ve had the Pork Belly Bao. The chicken was juicy but the sauce wasn’t as finger lickin’ good as the pork belly bao. If you’re a fan of mayo, you may love it because there is a lot of mayo, but unfortunately mayo doesn’t do anything for me (I know, I’m in the minority on that one).
On to dessert, the bao style.
We are major matcha ice cream fiends so it wasn’t rocket science that we all chose the Green Tea LB Ice Cream Sandwich @ $48 HKD (I think… )
OMG, is that not soooo tantalizing? It had so much potential. When you order steamed buns fried at a traditional Chinese restaurant, they give you condensed milk for dipping and it’s carb-y goodness. In this dessert bao, they have the bun fried in a really nice crispy way, the condensed milk is, well, condensed milk is always good, and green tea ice cream is also yummy as always. BUT when put together, it had no layering of flavours and was just sweet on top of sweet with more sweet. Unfortunately for me, it fell flat. In fact, I think it would be more enjoyable to eat the bun with condensed milk, and the ice cream separately.
Yes though with a caveat. It’s a fun diner and independently owned, a rarity in HK as a) it’s not under a group and b) it’s not under the Maxim Group.. I love the ambience and their concept and everything is executed in a very meticulous matter to ensure quality. Loves it.
The caveat… The wait time is something that would give me second thoughts whether I would return or not, however, it’s a must try if you haven’t because we had a pretty fly time. The price is on the high side as the size of the dishes aren’t very big. The food is filling because it is quite calorific- the flavours are very intense and heavy. However, I could have easily had scarfed down a bowl of wonton noodles afterwards to cleanse my palate. The Pork Belly Bao is the must try and the dessert baos can be takeaway so it might be fun to try it after a stroll around PMQ.
It’s in the area where it’s the cusp between Sheung Wan and Central, and it’s just as far from either of the MTR stations. I prefer Central because the hike up is less strenuous.
It’s near Yardbird, Oolaa, and the PMQ.
Easiest way to get to Little Bao, in my opinion, besides hopping in a taxi, is to get out from Exit D2, Central Station. At the exit, head right, and cross the street to Coach. Walk along the big street, Queen’s road, away from LKF and towards the huge Zara. You need to get to 100 Queen’s Road as that’s where the mid-level escalators are. Get yourself onto the escalators, and go up and up and up.
Get off at Staunton Street, which is the next big street up from Hollywood Road (if you reach Elgin, you’ve gone one escalator up too many). Once off the escalators (longest outdoor escalator in the world) on Staunton Street, cross the street, head right, and walk, walk, and walk farther. Look out for Little Bao once you reach the cross street Aberdeen street (PMQ should be one street below) and it should be on your left. You would have gone about half a block + too far if you reach Oolaa or Yardbird. That route has the least inclination though it could be farther than exiting from Sheung Wan. In addition, the mid-level escalators will have a machine just before exiting onto Hollywood Road, where just by tapping your Octopus card, you will get $2 off your next MTR ride (same day). BONUS!
How is there no website?!?
Address & Directions:
66 Staunton Street, Mid-Levels, Central, Hong Kong
Phone: +852 2194 0202
Hours: Monday to Saturdays from 6pm-11pm; Closed on Sundays!
- Central Station, Exit D2 (20 minute walk but you get to utilize the mid-level escalators for a portion of the journey)
- Sheung Wan, Exit (15 minute walk but at a much steeper incline)
Have you been to Little Bao? Tell us how you liked it and how long you queued for!