Bao, Bao, Bao Ji

by Gana Adi
18th February 2016
Lodged in the bustling Pelaspas building, Bao Ji presents a playful twist to the much-beloved traditional Taiwanese pork belly bun to match with their reinvigorating tropical cocktails.

There’s nothing more appealing than a space that adequately combines grit with flair. Such is Bao Ji, the latest addition to Pelaspas, a thriving lifestyle joint in Dharmawangsa. The interior, filled with refreshing scent of lemongrass, is an understated mix of cool and laid-back Asian ambience that is far from being contrived or manufactured – antique Chinese paintings compliment an otherwise dull wall along with knick-knacks from all over Asia that embellish the space. But the favourite spot is perhaps the corner by the glass windows. Thanks to the skylight, the corner is bright and airy; a perfect spot for an afternoon session involving cocktail and their much coveted bao.

Bao Ji centres on gua bao, a Taiwanese semi-circular steamed bun with various fillings such as braised pork belly with chopped nuts and brown sugar that are sandwhiched between the bun.  Bao Ji’s version of bao, however, is almost similar to hamburger: the bao is a circle bun that is cut in half, stuffed with towering filling much to everyone’s pleasure.

Among the selective list of bao’s, Roast Pork Belly steamed bao has been the crowd-pleaser by far. However, getting the lesser amount of attention that it should have deserved, the King Prawn proves to be a great alternative to the pork bao, with its juicy mirin-poached prawn and katsuobushi (bonito flakes), topped with a generous dousing of mentairashi mayo.

The baos are clearly the spotlight dish of Bao Ji, but the kitchen pushes far beyond this boundary through more varieties of bites. For those with healthy appetite, you might want to start digging more into the ‘plates to share’ menu. KFC (battered chicken thigh with gochujang dressing and pickled jicama) is a staple delight for chicken lovers. But the drawcard is their Grilled Belly, several hunks of grilled pork belly with hoisin glaze, adorned with freshly chopped kimchi and yam purée. It’s a perfect bite for the famished.

Adding a perfect conclusion to the bao experience is the house’s curated drink list that spans from blended whiskey, single malt, to gin with floral and fruity notes. But try the house’s tropical cocktails to go with your bao. You may start with Lychee Float, a rejuvenating mix of lychee sorbet with gin and fizzy tonic water.

And all of the above is combined with such ease that Bao Ji easily warrants itself as one of hippest spots in town sans the much dreaded aura of intimidation.