Shop 4/19-37 A’Beckett St, Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9654 7887
My friend Geisha M posted on Facebook “Who feels like buns this Sat?” with a link to Wonderbao. I immediately replied “MEEEE.” It’s a date!
For those who are unfamiliar, “bao” also means buns. And it seemed to be taking over Melbourne as the next “cool” thing to have, after cupcakes, macarons, Mexican etc… you got the drift. Of course you have your institution like Nam Loong, which have been serving baos for years and years, but the new comers like Wonderbaos and Bao Now is taking Melbourne by the baos (I mean, balls) and charging out like it’s the new “IT” eat.
We arrived at the isolated and very quiet A’Beckett st where we walked up and down several times, not seeing no Wonderbaos anywhere. Finally, Geisha M had to call one of her friends who have been there before for instructions. Apparently, it’s in a commercial building where the Korean cafe Tarng is. You have to go inside that building to the very end and Wonderbao is on your left.
That place was full when we got there by 1pm, but then there are not many seats. There are about 6 counter seats and… that’s about it. There are also several milk crates outside overlooking Literature Lane which is where we gingerly perched to enjoy our Wonderbao, next to the rubbish bin- this is quintessentially Melbourne.
As I was trying to absorb the not very big menu to decide exactly what to have, Geisha M said “I was recommended to order everything”. OK then, I love a girl who take charge. So with a wave of our hand we ordered the whole menu, plus drinks, for approximately $34. Holy crap, that’s a LOT of buns.
Something like 3 mins later, our first baos arrived. We were wondering how we are supposed to eat all these buns perching on crates when the friendly waiter found some larger crate to make a make shift table for us. Ingenius!
First came the Dao Bao (big buns) and the Chicken Baos and they were $3.2 each. Then came the choy bao (vego bun), Char Siu Bao (BBQ Bun) and the Cheung Chay Bao which are $2 each. Nao Wong Bao (Custard bun) and Taro Bao ($1.7 each) came in quick succession and the last of the buns, the pork belly baos and fried silky tofu bao ($3.8 each) arrived also. Our table/giant crate is instantly filled with some sort of bao feast fitted for a king.
On the right is the Dai Pork Bao and Chicken Bao. Very moist and bursting with pork, the dao pork bao was juicy and with little surprises like mushrooms and egg hidden in the bao. I actually think that the chicken and pork buns don’t taste too different. They are both quite good. The only problem is that there is a LOT of dough in this bun… maybe back in Depression this is how things roll and if we are students, trying to stuff ourselves with a $3 bun, this might be awesome, but for us who are trying everything, it’s a LOT of carbs to get through.
The Gua Bao, of Momofuku fame, is actually a simple bun hailed from China. What I expected was slightly sweet, fluffy bun that just melts in your mouth like little clouds of awesomeness. Sadly, these three buns did none of those. They were thick and slightly stodgey. The tofu bao was nothing special, just a boring piece of tofu to tick that box they have vego option. For $3.8 it wasn’t worth it.
Out of the two pork buns, I like the braised pork belly gua bao more as the pork belly melts in your mouth. But Geisha M didn’t like it at all. Well, that’s just because she hasn’t tried the roast pork belly one which was mediocre. We were quite disappointed by this trio.
The Cha Siu Bao, Sausage Bao and Vego Bao (not pictured) was another disappointment. Perhaps because the baos all arrived together everything started to get cold, the baos just didn’t taste as good. The fillings of the Char Siu Bao was simply too sweet, it didn’t have the savoury/sweet balance of flavours. The sausage bao was too hard to split so we let Hubby had it and he said it wasn’t very good. The vego bun Geisha M liked, but once again I just felt they had it just to tick that they have vego option box.
The dessert buns, custard and taro was also slightly disappointing. The filling was not moist at all, truth be told, it’s very clumpy. Perhaps it would still be acceptable if it was hot, but being cold, it was a bit hard to swallow. Thankfully the buns are less doughy than the others.
Because the baos are way too doughy, we had to leave a lot of buns behind which was such a waste. As I said, if you are a poor student looking for a cheap feed, Wonderbao may be suitable for you. Indeed, it opened in a fantastic location just behind RMIT. But if you have more dough (excuse the pun) and wanted better quality baos, this is probably not the place for you. 6/10