Though tucked and hidden, this quiet little restaurant is creating a lot of buzz. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anything like it: a little shop that serves up a small selection of dainty yeast steamed buns known as “bao” and that’s pretty much it. The buns are very reminiscent of the famous pork belly steamed buns served at Momofuku but aren’t anything short of unique.
On my short weekend trip down to Melbourne, I decided to meet up with my cousin here at Wonderbao for a quick bite. The area is quite quiet, and despite being in the city, parking can easily be found nearby at $4 an hour or you can get there with just a 3 minute walk from Melbourne Central Station. That being said, the shop itself is quite hidden. Tip: it’s located inside a black building beside a Taiwanese Cafe called WE Cafe.
Cute and cosy, with a very approachable staff readily offering to answer any question you may have. The sriracha sauce bottles alone already made me feel right at home. We ordered the soya milk (cold) and a “F.O.B” drink (basically those Asian juice boxes) to start as we waited. The soya milk was nice and refreshing on a hot hot summer day, but definitely was lacking in sweetness. It was nice, but definitely on the bland side.
The menu was a simple one page menu, with an additional special of a Deep Fried Oyster Mushroom Gua Bao. With three of us, we were able to order everything we wanted to try.
As we were browsing the menu I noticed many customers walk in just to pick up a few of the Char Siu Bao (BBQ Pork) to-go. One customer even came back after 15 minutes to get more! It must be good! The buns are quite small, fitting pretty much in the palm of my hand, but they were amazingly soft and fluffy in texture. I wouldn’t say it blew my mind, but it was very nice. The Nai Wong Bao (Egg Custard) was really good. It tasted just like an egg tart and was just right in terms of sweetness and texture! I would love to get more if I had the stomach for it.
The Fried Oyster Mushroom was seasoned in garlic and chilli, garnished with coriander, and drizzled with Japanese mayo and sweet chilli sauce. The flavour combination was really nice, a Japanese take on the steamed bun. The disappointment was only in the lack of presence of the oyster mushroom itself, I couldn’t really taste it at all. Of the two pork belly options, we enjoyed the Roast Pork Belly Gua Bao the most. I loved the amount of fresh veggies you get with it to balance out the pork belly. The overall serving is not at all heavy, and you won’t feel any bit of guiltiness downing more of these babies. Mmm.
To finish off, we ordered the Tofu Gua Bao. You may think of skipping this one, thinking it’s just their “vegetarian” option, but if you can spare the change and some tummy room, think again. Very silky and again, amazing mix of textures and perfectly doused with enough sauce to make you forget the lack of pork belly goodness, this one is worth a try.
Overall:Come here ready to try everything on the menu. And if you can't, be prepared to visit more than once. This cute little steamed bun shop is a very well executed concept that serves up quality little bao's that will make you rethink the traditional bao. My tip? Order everything.
*Our scoring system is out of 5. With 5 being the highest score.