We have just been welcomed to Super Bao by Paul, the manager and are poring over the menu. Another school mum walks in with her family and stops to say hello.
“This is your first time? OK, well, order the pork belly bao. I get it every time and we all LOVE the zucchini chips.”
I take note and then glance around the space.
A vibrant mural stretches half the length of the restaurant. Ancient Chinese warriors, real and mythical, leap through the air, battling beasts and fighting off monsters that rear up out of the sea. On closer examination we notice that the ancient scene is juxtaposed with modern elements. Bao, steamed buns, lurk Where’s-Wally-like in the scene and Robyn, my lunch date points out the warriors’ unlikely footwear; Nike!
“That’s Daddy’s shoe,” laughs Paul’s daughter pointing at Lu Zhishen’s polka-dotted Air Max which is being wrangled by a raging pink octopus. Paul, the manager modestly owns up; he created this fabulous mural especially for the restaurant and the Nikes are a nod to his interest in fashion.
Aside from being a talking point, the mural embodies the ethos of Super Bao.
“Our food is a new format,” Angel, Paul’s wife tells me. “Bao is a new medium. It is small, easy to grab, a perfect medium to show all the authentic Chinese flavours. You go to a Chinese restaurant and order a big dish just to get one flavour, but with bao you can get three or four and try different flavours. Big flavours in a small bite; authentic Chinese flavours presented in a new way.”
Super Bao is brand spanking new to Dickson’s Chinatown although it may feel familiar. If you attended the Farmers Market, Handmade Market, Nara Candle Festival, or the Multi-Cultural Festival in the last 12 months, you may have sampled some bao magic while they were testing the waters and experimenting with their menu.
Paul and Angel have both left esteemed advertising careers to follow their food dream and they are excited to be part of the Dickson district redevelopment.
Aside from the top-shelf quality gin at the bar, we notice distinctive bottles of Moonzen Beer.
“Moonzen is a family-run brewery using time-honoured brewing techniques,” says Angel. “Every beer has a story drawing inspiration from Chinese mythology and distinct flavour. Our shop is the only place you can drink this beer in Australia.”
The two of us have ordered enough food for four people and while we wait, Paul brings us a Yuzu–Rin Sour to taste. The cocktail features gin-infused mandarin, Yuzu Seita, (citrus flavoured sake) mint, lime and egg white. I would not have picked it for myself ever, but it is pretty and it tastes like sunshine. I drink it all.
Paul tells us that the bao is made fresh each day. After proving the dough overnight, there are a further eight steps to a process that yields soft, fluffy bao, with a texture firm enough to hold wet fillings.
Our food arrives promptly and we dive in, sharing every dish.
I pull the slow braised pork belly bao in half easily, as the meat is so succulent. The pickled cabbage is chopped nearly as finely as the peanuts, giving it an even flavour distribution.
The piquant shanghai duck bao is tender with a hint of orange zest and bursting with fresh grated carrot and spring onion. Angel says this dish is inspired by her Mum’s recipe.
The Japanese tofu is a fragrant dish, spongy fried cubes soaking up a tangy combination of mirin and soy sauce.
We devour the popular Taiwanese snack, popcorn chicken, dipping the pieces generously into the zingy wasabi cream. This is the first time I have enjoyed the flavour of wasabi in anything!
The lobster spring roll with the rich, slightly tangy miso beurre blanc sauce is a standout for me. The crisp pastry encases a mellow combination of lobster, mushroom and mozzarella filling; I could eat it all day long.
I munch through more than my share of the perfectly fried zucchini chips. Sorry Robyn.
If you have had sticky fried chicken of the sweet chilli sauce variety, the texture of here is familiar, but there is an extra sourness because it is sticky with sweet and sour sauce.
We have ordered too much to be able to fit in dessert, but that will be an excuse to come back again.
Unit 240, 6 Cape Street
Open for lunch and dinner every day but Monday.
Have you eaten at Super Bao? Have you seen their awesome bathroom? Comment below.