WHERE: 3/56-58 York St, Sydney NSW 2000
That moment when your head hits the pillow at the end of a long and arduous day can feel even transcendental….just the same as the moment your teeth hit the fluffy bao at Mr Bao on York Street. You really need to be on a next level to achieve such bao as this, Mr Bao.
Whilst a little hard to find, it yields fantastic rewards. On York street, about 8 minute walking distance from Wynyard station, you can see the sign hanging – yet it is nestled in the back of a food-court style room housing Baker Bros and something else (I forgot!) Yet it’s certainly cute and hits the right spot of ‘trendy’ too, with its high stools, oversized light bulbs and communal long table setting. An ideal spot to grab your next office lunch, or catch up. The Vietnamese and Japanese twists to the Taiwanese classic Gua Baos is evident in the use of condiments and garnishes such as karaage, agedashi sauce and wasabi. I ordered the Tempura Prawn Bao, and the Chicken Karaage Bao. It’s a 2-for-$12 deal, and that seems apt, when you you receive your food and they’re pretty big.
The Karaage Chicken Bao has a crispy, juicy yet well cooked chunk of chicken in it, covered in spicy aioli. I had initially pegged it as harissa – but maybe they use a dash of that in it.It also contains pickled red cabbage, and topped with coriander, which is an excellent choice of elements to grace the soft, generally subtly-flavoured bao bun. Tthe crunchy red lettuce, and the juicy karaage with aioli go well together. I’m going to mention that this is my second time having this bao, and every time, they have gotten the balance right with the sauce. Topped with very fresh coriander (no unsightly weird blotches or wilting here), this is a great choice, and you may be able to tell, my favourite.
Meanwhile, the Tempura Prawn Bao showcases it’s own merits. It is a little less in your face than the chicken karaage, with a subtler blend of flavours and elements. The prawn is down to perfection – soft to match the texture level of the bao bun. This contains pickled daikon, shallots, and coriander, and is drizzled this time with a fantastic wasabi mayonnaise. You may ask for your chicken karaage with wasabi mayo instead of the spicy aioli for a real treat…and maybe I will do the same next time.
I’ve also sampled the Crispy Tofu Bao on a different occasion, which comes with agedashi sauce, shallots, toasty peanuts, and coriander. As a vegetarian option, this doesn’t disappoint – the tofu is sublime, and a nice crispy coating with the roasted peanuts really takes the cake. Once again, the agedashi sauce is in perfect balance with the other flavours. I’ve included a photo of it just above.
I noticed they also have shared things such as sweet potato fries, and soft shell crab with dipping sauce. Based on Mr Bao’s track record, I would not hesitate to give these a go as well – their service at York St is quick, and efficient. Maybe a little assembly line, but it is styled like a food court. The setting is a little noisy at lunchtime which is a given considering the presence of not only bao lovers but also the two other food stores. But you can watch the people on your street go by – and therefore the store is also adequately lit with both trendy glass bulbs, and natural light and air from outside.