A staple in every cuisine one can possibly consider, bread is – well – essential. From the perfect Lebanese saj, to a freshly baked French baguette, humanity’s affinity for bread will never fade. Taking that knowledge to heart, the two masterminds behind the restaurant bring us gloriously stuffed baos, hence the name, Bao. For those of us who don’t know what a bao is: bao, aka baozi, is a Chinese steamed bread roll that is then filled with imaginative concoctions. Also, it’s pronounced bAw – as in “baw-wow.” So when a locally conceived steamed buns restaurant creates a buzz like Bao has, these bazaar editors just had to pay them a visit and inspect this dish. Well, many dishes, for that matter.
Needless to say, we left satisfyingly full. What we didn’t expect to walk away with, however, is a newfound knowledge and appreciation to the technique and thought that went behind their superb creations. What impressed us beyond words was that the entire design of the décor and branding was done in-house! Now, lets start from the beginning, shall we? Standing outside the beautifully crafted blue doors – don’t miss the opportunity to look up. The signage, as simple and minimal as it is, is absolutely stunning. Using circular light bulbs, the word “bao” is illuminated with the words ‘Steamed Buns’ neatly situated below. Once you walk in, the minimalist theme continues from the circular tiles on the floor to the pixilated images that adorn one side of the walls. On the other side, you’ll find a wall-length mirror with a vintage feel that beautifully compliments the area. The ceiling on the other hand is bare grey and industrial looking with exposed light fixtures dangling from it. Between natural light and the exposed light bulbs, the mood is set.
The seating is reminiscent of vintage, cozy European cafés – where you’re given the illusion of being outdoors, yet spared our summer’s heat. We fell in love with the extensive bench that runs along the entire side of the restaurant, serving the design of Bao with a brilliant social element. The theme of the restaurant emulates the shape of their bao creations – everything is circular from the gorgeous décor to the food you’re devouring. Even the color scheme chosen plays a part in the presentation as a whole. To maximize your experience, the colors chosen are grey with simple accents of green and white – this way, you can enjoy your dishes as they bring an array of colors to the table. Biodegradable paper-plates, glass cups, metal cutlery and wooden chopsticks ensure the restaurant’s efforts in contributing to a sustainable and green environment. As you take a seat and are presented with the menu the first thing you’ll notice are the circles that mirror the restaurant’s general décor. Once you look at the menu properly you’ll see that it’s short, sweet yet a mighty force to be reckoned with! So make sure you head up there with an empty stomach because the baos are worth filling up on.
We started our journey with a Quinoa Salad. Combining white and red quinoa with pieces of avocado is incredible on it’s own. But adding crunchy kale, almost caramelized beetroot strips and topping it off with a sweet and tangy balsamic glaze is genius! The salad was light, delicious, and everything a salad must be. Next came our starters presented in beautiful white tubs of Tempura Shrimp and Tamarind Drumstick. The shrimp were beautifully battered, fried to golden perfection, and topped with a creamy and delicious sriracha sauce. A hint of spice and packed with flavor, the shrimp was consumed happily. The Tamarind Drumstick was a whole other story. You needn’t worry about getting your fingers sticky just yet as they’re made of bite-sized boneless chicken drumsticks that are then deep-fried with buttermilk. The tamarind glaze on the drumsticks is what makes these poppers an absolute hit in our books – absolutely beautiful!
Now when it comes to baos, it is absolutely essential that they are steamed, a little sticky, and light – and Bao has the formula down to an exact science. Our mains started coming in one by one and we were blown away. The baos were perfect in size, proportion, and ratio of bun to filling. We got three baos in different variations: seafood, red meat, chicken. Our first bao was a Crispy Chicken bao – fried chicken breast topped with an airy Japanese mayo and wonderfully textured apple coleslaw. The combination of hot and cold with every bite taken was beautiful. Next on our bao journey was the Coconut Shrimp bao – gloriously coconut crusted shrimp with a sweet chilli aioli, topped off with shredded pickled cucumber and crispy carrots. The flavor of the coconut really shone through and the sauce was perfectly balanced. Finally, they had saved the best bao for last, the Brisket bao found its way to our table. Perfectly shredded ten-hour-slow-cooked melt-in-your-mouth brisket with crispy onions, red chilli, and cooling ranch sauce. The meat was stunningly marinated and wonderfully rested before making it’s way to our bao.
Thinking nothing can top off the savory baos, we were in for a treat – dessert baos. Since there were only two on the menu, we got both: the Donut bao and the Crispy Banana Cinnamon bao. To create a donut bao, one must fry the bao before serving – genius! A golden bao filled with the perfect proportion of homemade pretzel vanilla ice cream topped off with a salted caramel glaze. As for the Crispy Banana Cinnamon bao, the bao itself is cinnamon-infused adding depth and complexity to the flavors of the fried banana sitting atop a helping of Nutella. The whole thing is then drizzled with caramel sauce and ready for you to bite into. The experience as a whole was absolutely astounding; our journey left us with a stomach full of comfort and a warm fuzzy feeling. Just remember, head over there with an empty stomach, you’ll need it!
Bao is located in Kuwait City, Sharq Khaled Bin Waleed St. opposite Sharq Police Station roundabout. For more information on bao-Steamed Bun- follow them on Instagram @bao_kw or call them on
5147 0344. Photography by: Aysha AlShaibani.