Bao Down

I was scrolling through Instagram one day and I came across UYU Ice Cream’s post which informed me that they were extending their $3 ice cream soft opening special. Ecstatic, I immediately messaged KitKat, to which she suggested we grab dinner after work before we head over to our main destination. KitKat suggested Catch 122, but I have been on a splurge lately so I threw out a bunch of cheaper and lighter options, and Bao Down came out the winner.

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Bao Down has a very upbeat, hipster vibe to it. The quaint little restaurant is cozy but has limited seating. We arrived at around 7 on a Wednesday night and the place was pretty packed. Being smart, one of us lined up to order while the other scoured for seats. I scored a table upstairs right next to their mural, which I forgot to take a picture of, but I thought the painted cartoon samurai animals on the wall were adorable.

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My Two World’s Collide!!! ($6) took about 20 minutes to arrive. I was expecting the bao to be warm and toasty, however, they were only room temperature at best. This bao boasts 2 kinds of pork belly; star anise and ginger braised pork belly, and crispy pork belly with a hoisin glaze, along with other good stuff like chicharon (fried pork rinds), carrots, daikon, scallions and gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste). It was like eating an open faced cha siu bao ( 叉燒包/steamed Chinese BBQ pork bun). The roasted flavour along with the scallions and hoisin sauce was reminiscent of Peking duck (北京烤鴨/片皮鴨)but without the actual duck of course. While the bao tasted delicious as a whole, the crispy pork belly wasn’t really crispy, it was actually a little dry and tough.

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The YVR ($7) consists of seared Ocean Wise albacore tuna, avocado, double smoked bacon, sweet soy, wasabi mayo and baby pea shoots. With the first 3 ingredients being among Kitkat’s favourite foods, I knew this was what she was going to order the moment I saw it on the menu. I am a fan of tuna tataki myself, but I felt like the soft and mild flavours of the fish wouldn’t make the best combo with the bao, which was also soft and mild tasting. I had a bite of KitKat’s YVR and my suspicious were correct, it was kind of one-note. I didn’t like it as much as my pork belly bao, which had more of a textural contrast and bolder flavour. KitKat enjoyed it though, with the only complaint being that the pea shoots were too fibre-y and tough to chew. She ended up picking most of them out. But hey, we ordered fries to share, so we still got our serving of vegetables, because fries are basically a kind of potato salad, right? But if you beg to differ, our fries had kimchi too. Hahah.

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The Kimchi fries (small $4.50) came with crispy pork belly, bean sprouts, sweet soy, crispy garlic, garlic mayo and scallions. Again, the pork belly wasn’t crispy. They came in 2 big lumps that were tough and dry. The fries on the other hand, were cooked just the way I like them, slightly crispy on the outside and mushy on the inside without being overtly greasy. The slight acidity of the kimchi went harmoniously with the savoury and subtly sweet soy sauce, and the raw bean sprouts added a hint of freshness to the fries. They did get a littly too salty towards the bottom as they were soaked in sauce though.

While the portions don’t look that big, it was actually rather filling. Altogether, the food was good, but definitely not enough for us to bao down, but I give them an A+ for the punny name.

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BAO DOWN
+1 778 379 3611
Gastown
12 Powell Street, Vancouver