Putting the 'wow' in the 'bao'

July, 24/2022 - 10:02
Bao Wow is nestled at the bottom of Đặng Thai Mai Street in Tây Hồ. The restaurant has an intimate feel despite the industrial decor, with exposed metalwork and purple neon lighting (“I Licked It So It’s Mine”) juxtaposed with plants and dark wooden tables.
Bao Wow's decor is industrial yet intimate, in no small part thanks to the warm and friendly staff. VNS Photo Seán Nolan

Seán Nolan

Over the weekend, I had the chance to visit Bao Wow, a fun, fusion restaurant that always crops up in the ‘best restaurant in Tây Hồ’ discussion.

Bao Wow is nestled at the bottom of Đặng Thai Mai Street in Tây Hồ District. The restaurant has an intimate feel despite the industrial decor, with exposed metalwork and purple neon lighting (“I Licked It So It’s Mine”) juxtaposed with plants and dark wooden tables.

Much of this intimate feel can be attributed to the staff. Cheerful and chic, everyone is greeted with big smiles and cheeky questions at the door. It wasn’t just from our server either – every member of staff we passed on the way to our table greeted us with cheerful sincerity as if we were already familiar acquaintances or regular guests.

First, the drinks. Along with the usual soft drinks and local beers, Bao Wow also offers craft ale, ciders and a wide array of cocktails. Gently encouraged by our waitress to indulge, we got the Eastern Standard (VNĐ120,000), Vanilla Julep (VNĐ100,000) and the Pineapple Smash (VNĐ100,000), which was particularly good.

More importantly though, the food.

For those not in the know, baos are an ancient Chinese steamed rice bun that have exploded in popularity around the world in recent years.

The eight baos on the menu are inspired by different dishes from around the world, none of which would normally be found on a traditional bao – the “Falafel” has Mediterranean influences, with lentil falafel balls, pickled beets, garlic and mint tzatziki sauce, while the “Dirty Bird” is fried chicken, Asian slaw, house pickles and spicy mayo.

On top of the namesake dishes, Bao Wow also has a wide selection of side dishes to accompany the main event, including edamame beans (in garlic and soy, or butter and salt – VNĐ70,000), kung pao chicken (VNĐ90,000), and cajun fries (VNĐ70,000).

Spoilt for choice, I ordered a “Big Mckenna” bao (VNĐ65,000), along with kung pao chicken and edamame beans with garlic and soy.

The kung pao chicken came in bite-sized pieces that were covered in a slightly spicy sticky sauce and topped with sesame seeds and spring onions. The outside was nicely crunchy, giving some satisfaction to spearing it with the provided wooden skewers.

The Kung Pao chicken is slightly spicy, topped with sesame seeds and spring onions, and absolutely delicious. VNS Photo Seán Nolan

The generous helping of edamame beans had been steamed al dente before being tossed in the soy and fried garlic dressed, which made digging the beans out of their shells all the more rewarding.

And the Big Mckenna? Well, let’s just say the Australian beef patty, Big Mac sauce, American cheese, shedduce (shredded lettuce) and sesame seeds is a tried-and-tested combo, and being served it on a bao only added to the timeless classic.

CLASSIC COMBO: The Big McKenna is a fusion of the classic hamburger with the Asian bao. Photo courtesy of Bao Wow

For dessert, we ordered the cinnamon mantou buns (VNĐ80,000), 10 small, soft doughnut-like cubes that come covered in icing sugar with a chocolate dipping sauce on the side.

We also chose something you don't often see on a menu – ‘100k round of drinks for the staff’.

When our order reached the open kitchen, every chef stopped what they were doing to cheer, clap and bang the metal counters – a lovely moment, and no doubt a great promotion for a few more drinks for the staff!

On top of the special mention of the staff, another should be given to the music selection at Bao Wow – it really is that good and when our waitress saw us jamming she sent us a link to the playlists too.

It's the little touches like that that really epitomise the level of service that you can expect to be treated to Bao Wow. On top of the delicious fusion food and range of cocktails, wines and beers, the staff do everything they can to make sure you have a great time – they really do put the 'wow' in the 'bao'. VNS

Bao Wow

Address: 31A Alley, 12 Đặng Thai Mai Street, Quảng An Ward, Tây Hồ District, Hà Nội

Tel: 0971282088

Comment: Fun, fusion dishes in a trendy location

Price: Baos: VNĐ50,000-70,000; Bowls: VNĐ140,000-160,000; Cocktails: VNĐ100,000-120,000. Open 11am-11pm, closed Mondays.

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