Melbourne, VIC 3000
Who likes hot Asian buns? I do, and hopefully the rest of Melbourne will too before long, with baos cropping up left and right in the last few months. After all, why shouldn’t they be the new macarons and tacos? They’re cute and versatile, and Bao Now, full of bright-eyed innovation, has stuffed these soft, fluffy buns with all sorts of weird and wacky fillings; visit with an open mind – there are no ho-hum pork buns here!
|Hot Asian buns and slouchy Chris fed up with my incessant photo-taking|
Bao Now’s claim to fame is being able to put ‘the world in a bun’. On the day we visited, there was everything from Mexican pork to bacon cheeseburger, and it was practically an obligation for me to return in the near future when I was told that there will be a new flavour – butter chicken – released soon.
Chris had already had lunch, so I was just going to share a couple of savoury buns with him, and maybe a sweet bun or two, and call it a day. But the owner (?) kindly chucked in an extra bun for us to try out, and in the name of research, who am I to decline?
|Buffalo Chicken ($3)|
The Buffalo Chicken ($3) was our pick of the savoury lot. Taking inspiration from the zingy New York Buffalo wings, these buns were filled with a gooey, spicy mixture that had a faint cheesiness and a lingering kick to it. I would happily have half a dozen of these for lunch.
|Bacon Cheeseburger ($3)|
The Bacon Cheeseburger ($3) bao had barely hit Chris’ tastebuds before he exclaimed that it tasted like a meat pie, and he was absolutely right. The comforting and lightly spiced mince tasted just like the Aussie classic, but I would much rather eat this – all the heartiness without the greasy feeling of eating too much grisly mince encased in puff pastry.
|Egg and Bacon ($3)|
The Egg and Bacon ($3) bao had a big breakfast slant on it, tasting a lot like a chunky omelette steamed inside a bun (which was pretty much what it is). The flavours of this were mild verging on bland, but all it really needs is a bit of salt and a little more bacon to make it a prime morning snack.
And of course, the best part of a meal – dessert. The lovely proprietor/human/bloke behind the counter saw that I was having a bit of a mental seizure trying to pick only 2 of the 4 sweet buns on offer, so when he carried the freshly steamed buns to our table, there were 3, not 2 baos in the cardboard tray, saving from me a whole afternoon of what-ifs.
Cheesecake ($2.8) in a bao, how could that go wrong? Or right, depending on how open minded you are. But don’t let the odd combination put you off – the thick, smooth chunks of cheesecake filling went beautifully with the fluffy bun, and there was just a faint hint of sourness from the cheese that gave it the bao oodles of character.
|Chocolate Mousse ($2.8)|
‘It’s like chocolate yoghurt in a bun!’ Chris injected again. And once more, he was spot on. We were licking our fingers as the sweet center of the Chocolate Mousse ($2.8) bao ran down our fingers, and I was left craving for a tub of chocolate yoghurt and a couple more of these babies.
|Vanilla Slice ($2.8)|
I am so glad that the Vanilla Slice ($2.8) bao was added to our order, because it turned out to be my favourite one by far. It may not be as quirky as some of the other creations, but the viscous custard was flawlessly smooth and heady with the scent of vanilla. Bakeries everywhere should be taking the vanilla slices out of their cabinets and replacing them with these.
I’ll admit that the brand new Bao Now still seems to be finding its sea legs; menu items are being tested and tweaked, opening hours adjusted back and forth, and there are thoughts of bringing in a new line of breakfast baos and a shiny new coffee machine. I wouldn’t call this the perfect place for lunch, as the baos are a bit small for the price, but it’s good for practically everything else – snack run, afternoon tea, quick breakfast, or just one of those damn good vanilla slice baos any time of the day.
Rating: 13/20 – i like sweet baos and i cannot lie.