(Article written for Food24)
From the moment I heard about this new little Asian spot, it was top of my list to try. I’m a huge fan of Asian, fusion style food, and then you add the word ‘street’ making the whole experience sound a little more authentic and edgy. And so Saturday night took myself and two friends to Lucky Bao where I was certain to try almost everything on the menu, and we did, almost.
The minute room, holds a counter with bar stools that surround the cooking area. Eight seats take up the whole room, where you sit and watch the food being prepared before you. John ‘the bao master’, trained by Chef Cheyne Morrisby (owner and founder), works swiftly and effortlessly over the gas tops, sprinkling, drizzling and shaking things up. It’s the pinnacle of the exposed kitchen, because you are right in the kitchen, engaged in the cooking process.
The space captures the essence of a nightlife scene with purple neon lighting cascading from beneath the counter top, and low hung ceiling lights above. Also each group of diners sit in front of a tap dispensing filtered water, so no nagging required.
First off we ordered a little rosé to get things going, and then it was bao time. Now if you’re not familiar with bao’s, simply put, they are filled steamed buns. They originate from China, and you get a large type and small type. Cheyne serves the large type, which is usually a takeaway item in China.
I ordered the soft shell crab bao (Sea Bao) and my friends, the pork belly bao each. WOW for the bao. My crab was crunchy, salty with subtle hints of fennel and stringy bits of lemongrass. The tempura was a lovely light crisp texture, and complemented by diced cucumber. The crab itself was buttery and flavourful and balanced well with the greens surrounding it.
The pork belly was a richer bao with a sticky toffee like coating and ground peanuts. The meat had crispy edges and a nice chilli bite from the sirasha.
On another colourful plate was our side dish of Asian slaw, finely sliced roots, cabbage with a green chilli mayo, sesame seeds and ground peanuts. Again the freshness harnessed the dish, and the oiliness of the mayo was countered with the zesty dressed roots and lemongrass. It’s safe to say this was the best Asian slaw I’ve had.
Round one was up and round two involved another three dishes, firstly the ramen fried chicken with a brilliantly, again, crunchy ramen deep-fried exterior, accompanied by a sesame mayo. Secondly the less exciting beef yakatori with a ginger, garlic, chilli and black vinegar glaze, which had a lovely flavor but was just a little scarce in its entirety. But this might be because both dishes were outshone by the Lucky Dog which was obscenely good and prompted some obscene school girl commentary as well which can be explained by the photo.
After the dinner I have only been raving to friends about Lucky Bao because I walked away thoroughly pleased and eager to take new people there. The simple concept and hole-in-the-wall style set-up, pave the way for a pure focus on excellent food, which is exactly what Cheyne is doing. So be sure to try it and do not miss the Sea Bao, the Lucky Dog and the Lucky Slaw.