Belly Bao has now moved from the Hudson Ballroom in the Sydney CBD to King Street in Newtown. They have expanded their menu to include noodles made from the bao dough and the baogers (their take on a burger) are now available every day of the week!
"How long will it take for passport control?" asked Nina, who considers Newtown just that bit too far from her shrinking 5-10km zone from home.
I'm gradually trying to move her out of her zone, and when we had an escape room booked in Newtown I asked Nina if she and Garth would like to try the new Belly Bao located in Newtown. We make a booking for Saturday night and although it has just opened it is very busy. Sylvia Tran is in the kitchen and Kiren Chua handles the floor and drinks.
They hand us an order form and the menu and I fill the form in. The first thing to hit the table are curry cheese fries. We all dig in as though ravenous (or was that just me?). There is very finely diced white onion and a delicious Japanese curry sauce and cheese on top. It's like a version of poutine and I love the cheesy curry sauce on top.
Everything is best shared because dishes do come out in no particular order. We share the crackling roast pork belly bao that has a melting soft piece of pork belly meat and a crunchy slice of crackling for a bit of textural contrast. The bao itself is so soft and the whole thing melts in the mouth. We ordered the crispy tofu bao for Nina and there's coriander and chilli sauce with crispy pieces of tofu tucked into the soft bao.
The tofu papaya salad has a dressing of fresh herbs, carrots, chilli and green papaya with the house made vinaigrette. There are actually quite a few vegan dishes on the menu and although this tastes like there is fish sauce, it's actually a vegetarian "fish" sauce used and vegetarian "oyster" sauce used with the gai larn.
Next comes our serve of sweet potato fries. Nina is a huge fan of these and we pull out enormous fry after fry. "This is a mega fry," says Nina.
As much as I love the baos, I lurrrve the baogers even more. The hamburger bun is replaced by a toasted sesame seed topped bao bun. My favourite is the original beef baoger (I resisted adding on a double beef patty) with a hash brown for crunchiness (add bacon too to make it truly heavenly). I wish I had ordered a few of these so I could have one to myself as I love them so much. They're just the right size for my mouth and there's juuust the right amount of sauce so they don't fall apart.
The eggplant baoger was for Nina. I tried a bite and it was good, quite a sweet eggplant filling but really I just had eyes for the beef version.
The chicken one accidentally came with eggplant instead of hash brown (I didn't want to send it back as I was curious to see what it was like). The eggplant lends a soft, sweet quality to the juicy, crunchy fried chicken fillet. Although I'm glad I tried it I think I prefer the hash brown for crunch.
The newest item is the salted egg coating om the Belly Bao Chicken. I like it but I think out of the three coatings (sticky, spicy or salted egg) I prefer the sticky or spicy. The salted egg hasn't quite got enough salty punch to it although there is the telltale graininess of the salted egg in it.
The onion bao noodles come out last, when we had actually forgotten that we had ordered them. These are spicy with a nice, chewy texture and you can tell that they're handmade because each noodle is slightly different. These are on the spicy side which we like.
The bill comes with a mahjong tile on top. Speaking of mahjong, one of the tables is a custom built mahjong table. We need to get going to the escape room so we have to skip one of my favourite items-the dessert baos! Oh the disappointment!
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever played mahjong? Do you have a favourite burger filling?
This meal was independently paid for.
184 King St, Newtown NSW 2042
Open Wednesday to Sunday 11:30am–10pm
Closed Monday and Tuesday