One of the dishes that gives Little Bao its name
As the above photo shows, this eatery has
more than just baos on its menu :)
I know a number of people who pride themselves on being among the first to try out a restaurant after it opens in Hong Kong. I, on the other hand, am perfectly happy to check out an eatery weeks, months, even years after it's opened; this not least since I figure this gives the restaurant time to iron out its early wrinkles and, if it's any good, prove this by having staying power.
In the case of the much hyped Little Bao, I actually had thought about trying it out on previous occasions (and had been wanting to give it a try ever since an Asian movie fan friend visiting from the US raved about it to me). But on each of the previous occasions that I figured that the time had come to give this now close-to-two-year-old Asian take on an American diner a try, the crowd waiting outside at the restaurant -- one of a number in Hong Kong with a "no reservations" policy -- told me otherwise!
Earlier this week, however, I finally passed this (still) pretty popular dining establishment located on the border between previously "happening" Soho and increasingly popular "Poho" at a time when there were vacant seats waiting to be filled pretty much immediately. So I quickly popped into Little Bao and after scanning the menu, decided to order its pork belly bao and a bowl of brussels sprouts (a vegetable I know that I love far more than most other folks!).
As the photo at the very top of this blog post shows, Little Bao's signature dishes aren't ordinary bao. Physically, they resemble burgers -- with the Chinese-style steamed bun taking the place of burger buns in the assemblage. Of the five different bao options at the restaurant, the beef bao would be the best to directly compare with a regular burger. Maybe I'll go for it on my next visit but for my first ever order there, I opted instead for the pork belly bao whose contents include slow-braised pork belly, bits of leek, shiso and red onion dressed with sesame, slices of pickled cucumber, and what was described on the menu as "hoisin ketchup".
Smaller than the smallest burger I've ever eaten that was not a slider (from, say, White Castle!), the pork belly bao was gone in about four bites! This wasn't quick enough though for the bottom slice of the soft steamed bun to stay whole, and its breaking up made eating the concoction somewhat messier than I'd have liked. In truth though, I didn't mind too much, on account of the dish having been so lipsmackingly tasty!
Even better was the brussels sprouts prepared with fish sauce caramel, chili, peanuts, lime and fried shallots. Admittedly, I more or less have never come across any brussels sprouts dish that I've disliked (and it really was the case that at boarding school in England, I'd happily eat up my entire lunch table's allotment of what I looked upon as sweet miniature cabbages -- to the delight of the other girls on it!). But I also reckon that it's entirely possible that I've eaten a greater variety of brussels sprouts dishes than most others, so it's saying something when I state that this may well be one of the most delicious I've ever had!
Put another way: When I return to Little Bao in the near future (like I plan to do), it'll be hard to not order the brussels sprouts again; this even though I would like to try other offerings on the eatery's menu! Actually, even though part of me thinks I should try another bao option, Little Bao may be like Yardbird (which, incidentally, Little Bao owner and chef May Chow used to work at) for me -- in that the non-signature dishes might actually appeal more to me, with such as its twist on mac and cheese (which makes use of steamed rice rolls and mentaiko cheese sauce) sounding pretty enticing indeed! ;b