Serving up a mouth-watering selection of Asian classics, paired with the best the rest of the world has to offer – all on one plate
District: Central, Hong Kong
Cuisine: Asian fusion
How much: Dishes range from $50 – $250
Best for: Relaxed lunch, dinner and drinks with friends
Must order: Mapo Tofu Fries
Tucked away down a dimly lit staircase on Wyndham Street, this chic little restaurant has given its menu a revamp that pays homage to diners whose roots are firmly planted in Hong Kong, while still satisfying those with a more Western appetite.
When restaurants in the 852 have an “east meets west” concept, it’s often a lot more of one and just a little of the other, but Bao Bei’s menu delivers a very literal fusion of the two. And the diversity doesn’t stop there, as the revitalised interior also houses several contrasting designs that blend effortlessly together – from the traditional dim sum baskets lining the entrance, to the huge “let’s get drunk” sign (in Chinese), that greets you at the bar. Heading through to the intimate dining area, you can’t miss the three colourful, contemporary artworks from creative group Parents Parents facing a wall adorned with hundreds of wooden abacuses – dare you not to touch!
I always like to sip a cocktail while I peruse the food menu (work up that appetite!), and the unusual mixes on offer here play on Hong Kong culture and familiar pastimes while giving a much deserved nod to the classics. The sweet and fruity, Typhoon No.10 really hit the spot for me, and the attention to detail in the wind-swept presentation was amazing. Another concoction served in a vintage Vitasoy bottle proved popular, and, I’m told, for locals it brings back the Childhood Memories from which it was named.
I kicked off the dinner with Sichuan Edamame, a moreish appetiser that left my taste buds (and lips!) tingling, although it didn’t carry quite as much of a kick as the Thin Sliced Pork Belly with Chili Garlic Sauce. The deliciously creamy Rice Cake Carbonara was a little easier on the palate, as were the Beef Tenderloin Wrappers with hoisin, a western switch from the more familiar duck pancakes.
If, like me, you’d sooner eat a sponge than tofu, you’ll want to make an exception for the Mapo Tofu Fries (trust me on this one!). I’m an official convert. Another ingenious meat and veg option is the Asian Style Brussel Sprouts with Chinese sausage – these versatile mini cabbages could well be for life, not just for Christmas!
Next up was a taste from the ‘something bigger’ menu and bigger it was! For the Baked Curry Chicken in Pineapple Bun Pizza Crust, a super-sized version of Hong Kong’s traditional (and much loved!) pineapple bun was theatrically carved open to reveal a whole chicken inside. This succulent bird had been marinated in red curry for three days and the combination of mild spice with the sweetness of the bun crust was heavenly.
Having devoured the best that China, Thailand and Indonesia have to offer, I was delighted that Korea made an appearance with the Bulgogi Rice in Claypot, and last, but by no means least, was the Wild Mushroom and Miso Cream Cannelloni with a flavoursome homemade cilantro and spring onion pesto.
I was fit to burst when the aptly named ‘Happy Endings’ arrived (but there’s always room for dessert!), including the beautifully subtle Hibiscus Hawthorne Cheesecake and the Yin-Yang Panna Cotta (a caffeine-lovers dream!). The star of the show for me had to be the Green Tea Molten Red Bean Cake, with its soft spongy outer casing and warm lava centre.
With fun and playful twists on classic comfort foods from around the world, Bao Bei gives everyone a taste of home. The small plates are perfect if you’re dining in a group, and with such an extensive cocktail list (and live music on the weekends!) it makes for an excellent drinking spot too. This delightful basement space is where east meets west and old meets new – a perfect reflection of the very essence of the city above.
Bao Bei, B1/F, 75-77 Wyndham Street, Central Hong Kong, www.baobeihk.com