Man. Do you know how long JoJo has been pestering LiLi to go to this place? FOREVER.
Jo and LiLi have a deep set appreciation for all steamed buns and dumpling-like foods. It was only natural really - they've both grown up with a fondness for these far east carby treats. Jo's mum would whip up a batch of Siopao (Filipino baozi) every once in a while and, LiLi? Well, weekly Yum Cha visits with her dad would spark the lasting relationship.
We were actually scheduled to hit up Baotime two weeks ago, but as fate would have it their cool room had broken down, so we ended up having to improvise which worked out quite well.
Luckily, when we walked towards 342 Bridge Road this time, the lights were on and it was buzzing with life.
This venture was a much needed treat after a particularly hard Friday at work. Jo hasn't been feeling too well either and has been recovering after surgery. She's been cooped up at home for a little while now and had been going a bit stir crazy, so she welcomed the sight of LiLi at her doorway at the end of the day.
With a double dosage of casual Black Milk, they trotted off to the tram stop to head in the direction of the promised land of the baos.
We were settled in almost as soon as we arrived by the friendly and chipper woman behind the counter who asked if we had a reservation. Totally didn't know you could book, so we've noted that for future outings.
Since we hadn't, we were offered the communal small table in the middle, or the bar by the window. We happily sidled up next to the window to take advantage of the natural lighting while we still could and the young lady was quick to place some water in front of us along with a couple of menus.
It looked like the menu had undergone a bit of a makeover since the last time we'd had a look - not surprising as these guys are still quite new and are finding their feet. We noticed a few more things had been added and not taken away which was definitely a plus!
We were also informed that it was BYO and that we could bring back a bottle of something from the bottle shop around the corner if we wished. This would have been a bad idea for Jo who is still medicating. She rather sensibly picked up a Lychee Soda ($4) and in a show of solidarity, LiLi decided to support her friend and order a fruit soda as well, picking the BongBong Grape Juice ($4) - both delicious.
We proceeded in placing our order which went a little something like this:
Lobster Baoger ($12)
Lobster meat in garlic mayo and pineapple slab
Chili Crab Baoger ($9.50)
Softshell crab covered in bold chili broth
Gangnam Pancake ($12)
Kimchi Pancake covered in Cheese Lava
Mr Potato Fries ($5)
Burnt Butter Fries
Up first, Mr Potato Fries. These burnt butter fries were addictive and true to the name, were also rich and buttery - we could not get enough.
The rest of our order trickled through within ten minutes or so of us receiving our drinks and fries, not bad considering that they appeared to be short staffed during a busy period (around 6.30-7pm).
Forget about that though. What a glorious sight to behold this was.
Liana got her Baoger first and, gosh darn were we smitten. Jo was way too amused at the fact that it looked like an angry little crab that had been squished and was ready to fight you. 'That medication is clearly kicking in' thought LiLi as JoJo expressed her glee.
Yes, this was every bit as good as it looked.
The Lobster Bao came out shortly after. Jo was a little sad as it didn't look as plump as LiLi's did but wow, did this pack a punch.
If you're wondering, yes that is a ring of pineapple and yes, it really, really did work.
Admittedly, we were a little underwhelmed by the kimchi pancakes which is okay because Baotime can't win at everything!
It was well presented but we felt that it was a little ordinary. We agreed that it needed much more more kimchi and felt that it tasted more like a batter-y toastie than a pancake, so definitely some room for improvement there.
After we finished with our mains, we wondered for a little while whether we could eat another bao and forgo the dessert menu; but then we remembered who we were and laughed hysterically for a good couple of minutes.
Ain't no way JoJo and LiLi are rounding off a meal without something sweet.
We asked about the Signature Baonut flavours they had that day and the lady literally gushed as she talked about the salted caramel bao topped with honeycomb and the baonut with the Nutella filling. We knew then and there that any leftover doubts about dessert were most certainly crushed by that compelling description.
We didn't stop there though. The Durian Baoger? The Homemade Kaya Jam Baoger?
Home Made Kaya Jam Baoger ($6)
Filled with home made kaya jam and butter and a side of coconut ice cream Baotime
Siganture Baonut ($6)
Durian Baoger ($6)
Creamy durian custard filling and a side of durian ice cream
Siganture Baonut ($6)
Salted caramel and honeycomb
Unfortunately, shortly after we finished our mains there appeared to be a bit of a standstill in the kitchen.
It looked like a large take away order had overwhelmed the few staff that were on that evening so we ended up having to wait a good chunk of time.
As we weren't in any rush to be anywhere, we were quite happy to wait and to be perfectly honest, we're so glad we did.
If you're wondering what modern art is, I think we have the answer. It's the Salted Caramel Signature Baonut. Sensory appeal EVERYWHERE.
Imagine a sweetened bao that has been fried up for that perfect, crispy exterior. Then imagine cutting open this bao to the surprise that is a warm, gooey salted caramel centre. This was pure excellence.
Our two dessert baogers: home made kaya jam and durian custard.
The Durian custard and ice cream was light on flavour - as soft as durian can be. If you've never tried durian, the closest fruit to taste is jackfruit. If you've never tried jackfruit, then take a chance and try this Asian dessert! It's like jam on soft, bouncy bread without a hard sugary hit.
The Kaya Jam wasn't super sweet which was a god send after we sampled the salted caramel baonut. It was a great familiar flavour and an overall pleasant dessert on it's own.
The Nutella craze has well and truly hit Melbourne if it has now found it's way to a Baozi; and what an addition it is.
This had a couple of peanuts strewn through the filling which gave it that almost peanut brittle-like feature. This was so achingly rich that Jo struggled to get through it all. A great finale to a meal - so long as this is the only dessert you have!
I was happy at the fact this place was open when we arrived. Great ending to the week!
We were greeted by a friendly staff member and she took our order at our seats. Because this place looked casual, I just expected to pay and order at the counter. Definitely was an added bonus for the table service.
Butter fries you ask? Yes, it was some of the best fries I've ever had in my life. Who would have thought that burnt butter lightly tossed onto fries could actually be some of the best comforting food you'll ever eat? It's evil, but sooo good!
The chilli crab bao burger was cute because it looked like a squashed crab in a burger and the chilli was on point. I wasn't a fan of the gangnam pancake because I just could not taste the kimchi but maybe that was the point? Just too plain for me.
Salted caramel baonut was the perfect amount of crunchiness to gooeyness and I would recommend any salted caramel lover to try this dessert treat. It's to die for!
I ended the night reminiscing about times in Singapore with my Durian bao. This is not for everyone, as durian is an acquired taste, but I would go back just for the Durian ice cream alone. For me, it actually was light on the flavour when Durian has such a strong, pungent smell.
What I will say is this. This is not for someone expecting large servings. Bao burgers are intended to be smaller in size to regular burgers. Also, the entree plates are there to share. I can see how Baotime might not be favourable to others as you might compare pricing to serving size and not see the worth in it. If this is not a bother, then definitely go for the flavours as you are sure to find something on the bao burger menu or dessert menu that will sure blow you away.
I walked away from this dinner fat and happy. It was so worth the wait to finally be able to visit this little eatery.
That Lobster Baoger could have done with a tad bit more lobster for the price - but the flavour combination was phenomenal. I honestly wasn't sure if it would work with that slab of pineapple but it tied in well with the natural sweetness of the lobster and, with that garlic mayo? Heaven.
Probably made a mistake in picking two dessert items but I couldn't help myself. Nutella anything is my weakness and I needed to try that Kaya Baoger like something chronic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Kaya Jam Baoger and the coconut ice cream kept it fresh.
The Nutella Baonut finished me off for the night though. It was insanely rich and there were a couple of peanuts tossed in the filling which gave it this peanut butter-like edginess to it. The baonut was satisfyingly crispy on the outside but doughlike in the middle. Truly quite decadent but try to order just one dessert item when you go (we had to order more... for science).
Customer service was great although there was a slight hiccup between the mains and desserts. Baotime seemed a little understaffed that night and they took a huge hit when they received a massive takeaway order but this is probably just a small new-restaurant type of teething issue and I'm sure they will quickly pick up the art of juggling these sorts of tasks.
All in all, this was a great pick me up following the crappy week of cabin fever I'd endured and I've glad that it was spent at Baotime. I've been to a couple of places that have served bao-burgers/sandwiches and this is amongst the best of them. You would be silly not to give these guys a try.
Food and Drink: 4.0
Customer Service: 4.0
General Atmosphere: 3.5
Value for Money: 3.5
Food and Drink: 4.0
Customer Service: 4.0
General Atmosphere: 4.0
Value for Money: 3.5