Review of 'Bao Soho'

Ever since Bao has opened I have always wanted to visit as I am huge fan of Taiwanese steamed dumplings or “Bao” - Delicate small, white, light dumplings packed with flavourful fillings. With Bao I have been put off over and over again by the queues that regularly wait to get into their small location in Soho (they have other locations that are, evidently, not so busy). Their tiny Soho branch has such a narrow pavement outside the queue is actually on the opposite side of the street with a small “bus stop”-style sign to let you know where it begins and often while waiting in the queue we would see people entering the restaurant only being told politely to join the queue which they failed to spot. On the Tuesday evening we visited it was busy and we ended up queuing for about 30 minutes though it was an awkward sized party of three…The staff were very friendly and regularly came out to tell us how long it would be we would be waiting.

No, they do not accept reservations and, no, they do not do takeaway either.

Interior

The noisy, bustling, interior has a small bar area with surrounding seating near the door, and towards the back is the kitchen beside a small. Throughout the space there are small, tightly packed tables seating two people (pushed together for larger groups). This is not a place you want to linger…unless you are working your way through the quite tasty menu (though in that case you may want to be careful of depleting your bank balance, read on…).

You order dishes as you would at Dim Sum using a narrow sheet of paper that lists the options with a space for you to indicate the number of each you wish to order. It is divided into “Xiao Chi” (small dishes/starters), “Bao” (Taiwanese steamed dumplings, obviously the speciality here; the back of the order slip has a helpful detailed description of each; note the price is for a single Bao!), “Sides” and “Non Consumables” (souvenirs should you wish to commemorate your visit). There is also a daily special board on the wall with additional options.

Menu

A bit at a loss as to what was particularly worth trying we enlisted the help of our waitress who ticked a few suggestions on the menu, most of which we eventually ordered. The staff were great the entire evening, more than happy to offer suggestions and explain the menu items to us. The dishes are all prepared when ordered so they come whenever they are ready and we were able to add things to our order as our visit progressed (alerting the staff of our change).

Bao Classic, Aubergine (w/Plum Pickle Ketchup) and Sweet Potato Chips

First to arrive was the “Bao Classic” (£5) - Our first sighting of their signature dish and it was quite tasty piled with a lot of ground peanut powder and plenty of taste with fermented greens and coriander toppings. The “Aubergine Wonton Crisp” (£4) consisted of a bowl of slightly sauteed aubergine (egg plant) with a side bowl of wonton crisps - An interesting texture and very nicely spiced. The Sweet Potato Chips (£3.75) were one of the standout dishes of the evening - Crispy and full of flavour. Nicely the taste of the sweet potato was not drowned out by the plum pickle ketchup it came with.

Fried Chicken and Bao Fried Chicken

Next we got our fried chicken orders: Bao Fried Chicken (£5.50) in a sesame Bao with sichuan mayo, hot sauce, golden kimchi and coriander. Deliciously crunchy but juicy chicken – Full of flavour with the wonderful toppings. The small plate of “Taiwanese Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce” (£6.50) we ordered from the starters was delicious as well…but perhaps we didn't need to have this along with the Bao? The Bao was the better choice of the two.

Trotter Nuggets and House Salad

Next up we had “Trotter Nuggets” (£4.50; the tender meat from the feet of pigs) which were delicious, again, crunchy tasty coating with deliciously succulent meat inside and a nice, fresh, green coriander (or some such) sauce. The “House Salad” (£4) consisted of kale (not a big fan myself) sprinkled with cheese which was good but not exactly a flavour sensation though it was a nicely spiced dressing.

Eryngii Mushroom, Century Egg

The “Eryngii Mushroom, Century Egg” (£4.15) from the starters was suggested by one of the servers. An interesting combination of flavours that worked well together but, again, not a taste sensation.

Scallop

The scallops we ordered from the daily special board (£4.25 for ONE scallop) were highly disappointing both in price but also size and flavour. The green (matcha) tea powder added a slight bitterness to the dish but it basically was scallop and green tea powder. Would not order again despite being a huge fan of scallops.

Beef Rump Cap

“Aged Beef Rump Cap, Aged White Soy Sauce” (£6) was another recommendation from the server but disappointed – Tasty but surprisingly chewy.

Confit Bao

Not exactly full our final addition to our order was a round of “Confit Bao” (£5; Pork belly, pork sauce, hot sauce, and dried shallots) which we had mixed feelings about with several of my group thinking it was the best bao of the evening but I preferred the classic bao we started with as it had more flavour going on particularly with the peanuts it has sprinkled liberally over top.

We sat at the bar so ended up ordering a few drinks we saw being prepared that looked interesting. Not a drinker, I particularly liked the “Blood Orange and Clementine” (£4) but was perhaps a bit small.

The bill came to almost £130 for the three of us including a 12.5 % service charge and a few drinks. We were shocked particularly in light of the dining experience having waited for 30 minutes for a table and the crowded and, to be fair, not exactly posh interior. For this kind of money we could have a reserved table with nice food somewhere else. But the food is the focus here and in that it delivers very much on both taste and interest. The small dishes allow you to try a variety of things quite easily though at a price. The staff were excellent and attentive during our visit which really helped make the evening for us. I will probably be back but will hold off from ordering as much as we did this time. I can't think you will walk away full unless you are made of money!

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-03-19


Cuisine: Taiwanese

Address: 53 Lexington St, Soho, London W1F 9AS ENGLAND

Public Transport: TUBE Tottenham Court Road TUBE Oxford Circus

Location: London (England) - Soho

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URL: https://baolondon.com/