Forget Subway, the new CBD work lunch is Mr Bao, a city-based takeaway counter with counter seating that serves unfussed and fabulous gua baos, the Taiwanese answer to the taco. Geared to the lunch crowd, Mr Bao pumps out dreamy, pillow-soft steamed buns stuffed with slow-cooked meats and salads for just $6 a pop, or two for $11 if you want to bring one back for the boss and secure yourself a promotion next performance review.
Rather than just replicate the traditional Taiwanese barbecue pork bao, Mr Bao uses contemporary Asian fillings, including a Vietnamese-inspired pork belly bao served with a sheet of crackling, house-made hoisin, picked cucumber and coriander as well as a Japanese-inspired karaage chicken bao spiked with chilli aioli, pickled red cabbage and coriander. Each bao perfectly balances fattiness with freshness, spiciness with sweetness and softness with crunch; it’s a valuable lesson on how to cook like a pro with a seriously limited set of ingredients. Take a bow, Mr Bao.
For the self-controlled salad eaters, they also sell a one-size-fits-all Asian slaw made with a base of fresh herbs, cabbages and peanuts in sesame dressing, which can be topped with your choice of pork belly ($10), fried chicken ($10), agedashi tofu ($10) or tempura prawn ($12). On more social occasions, go for sharing plates like Vietnamese spring rolls ($7), chicken wings with lime and coriander dipping sauce ($8), and crispy-fried soft shell crab “dippers” ($10), which are served alongside fresh cucumber, Singaporean chilli crab dipping sauce and a baby loaf of deep-fried bread so you can build-your-own bao and dirty up your blouse before your 3pm meeting.
There’s also a small selection of Japanese beers and wines in case you decide to hang back and call it a sick day.
If it’s a Monday and you desperately need a pick-me-up to get you through an afternoon of number crunching or cold calling, look no further than the two mini ice-cream bao-gers made from green tea ice-cream with dulce de leche caramel ($5.50) or vanilla ice-cream with yuzu custard ($5.50). It’s a good reminder why you need to earn money in the first place.
Images: Bodhi Liggett.