Quirky Taiwanese in Soho if you're willing to queue
Category : Restaurant
| Cuisine : Taiwanese
Address : Lexington Street , Soho, Soho, London, W1F 9AS, UNITED KINGDOM - Directions
Web : www.baolondon.com
Opening Times : Mon-Sat 12am-3pm & 5.30pm-10pm
Closest Tube : Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square
BAO was formerly a haven for those in the know. On many a hungover Saturday we'd make the trek across London Fields to Netil Market and wait in line to grab something from the six stooled stand where Taiwanese woman Erchen Chung, her Chinese boyfriend Shing Tat Chung and his sister Wai Ting peddled milk buns impregnated with delicious fillings. Considering the queues that stacked up and the celerity with which they sold out, it's no surprise that their new brick and mortar, no reservations restaurant has gone from a small-scale cult phenomenon to one that would give scientology a run for its money. The room is a study in essentials. Uniform blonde woods encompass the walls, breaking rank only for an aperture to the kitchens. There's a bar in the entrance with stools situated around it and a smattering of tables. On the ceilings are Nordic style lamps - which is an interesting detail given that a few menu items would sit easily on a menu at Faviken or Noma.
When guests sit down at BAO they're immediately presented with two sheets. One contains illustrations and explanations of the titular bao while the other comprises of a tick style menu (you'll be tempted to draw a line through it and order everything) separated into Xiao Chi (small plates), Bao and Sides. From the Xiao Chi, many of the dishes could have been created by Rene Redzepi. 40 day beef rump cap with aged white soy sauce (made from the first pressing of golden beans in Taiwan) evinces a depth of bovine flavour that goes down fathoms. A pig blood cake topped with soy-cured egg yolk is an unctuous delight, as is sliced Eryngii mushroom with century egg, whilst a salad of turnip tops with salted egg provides a refreshing contrast. All three brought to mind Noma.
However, bao is the title fighter here and pulls no punches. The pillowy wee milk buns really stimulate the saliva glands. The classic still comes out on top, impregnated with braised pork, house greens, coriander and a dusting of peanut powder. Confit pork belly is a serious rival though, with pork sauce, hot sauce and very sweet dried shallots it brings to mind the flavours of a Bavarian weisswurst stand. Soy milk marinated, crispy fried chicken is paired with an elegant Taiwanese golden kimchi (house made), with Sichuan mayo and a sesame bao. Dishes come fast and furious and the table turning is swift, but the high-quality food ensures that it's worth the wait.