After hearing many good reviews for it, I decided to try out the famous Belly Bao myself, along with a bunch of friends from work so I don’t turn into the guy that eats in a dark corner, in a basement pub, by himself.
Sitting on Liverpool Street here in the Sydney CBD, it’s an ideal spot for any after-work outings with officemates or just catching up with friends. On this occasion, my work friends and I were coming straight outta an escape room.
With 14 people in tow, our humongous order included the likes of: BBC (Belly Bao fried chicken for the uninitiated and/or dirty-minded), Sweet Potato Fries, Papaya Salad, That Slaw, Crackling Roast Pork Belly Bao, Slow Braised Pork Belly Bao, Panko Crumbed Chicken Breast Bao, Soft Shell Crab Bao, Slow Braised Beef Short Rib Bao, and the Crispy Tofu Bao. So essentially 90% of the entire menu, but we did miss out on the famous Baoger due to it only being available on Thursdays. Pricing-wise, most of the items on the menu started out at $6.50.
As much as I would have liked to try a bit of everything that we ordered, my limited stomach space just wouldn’t allow it. However, I was able to manage a few pieces of the fried chicken that several of my compadres had ordered and kindly offered to me. While the fried outer layer was good it was not quite as crispy as I was hoping for, if KFC fried chicken’s crispiness is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10, the Belly Bao chicken would get a score of 6 for how crispy its skin is. But once I got over the disappointment of the surface, the meat underneath was extremely tender and tasty, not a single bite of the chicken felt dry at all. The old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” definitely applies here. Under the could-use-more-crispiness surface lies one of the best tasting fried chicken I have had. A Bryan satisfaction of 8 out of 10 for the BBC.
Side note, in one of the other buckets of chicken my workmate had discovered a chicken feather among its fried brethren, not inside one of the chicken pieces but sitting alongside them in the bucket. While some may find it off-putting my colleague did not think it was a big deal, and I personally think it demonstrates a certain level of freshness for their ingredients.
Aside from the fried chicken, I also indulged myself in the sweet potato fries before the baos had arrived. They were done well, not overly sweet and also had a bit of spice added to it for that extra flavour on top of the natural sweetness. The spiciness was a good touch to the dish, receiving a BSAT of 7 out of 10.
After waiting a little while longer, the main dishes came, and first up was the Panko crumbed chicken breast bao. My initial reaction was that it was smaller than expected but reminded myself that it’s not how big it is but the quality of it that matters. To that end, I have to say I wish I had picked a different item to try. The chicken was soft to the bite but didn’t feel like it had much flavour on its own, or perhaps it was overshadowed by the sauces applied to it, but it felt like I was eating bread crumbs with very little meat. It may look like a small schnitzel but it tasted more like a maccas filet burger while being slightly smaller and costing a bit more. I wouldn’t be against trying another one just to see if my first bao was an aberration, but just based on this initial experience the BSAT was a disappointing 5 out of 10.
And finally, the one bao that I was waiting the most eagerly for, the braised pork belly. Unlike the crumbed chicken I was actually expecting the pork belly to be soft and tender to the bite, and just from the looks of the bao my hopes were sky high. The pork belly looked the part, seeming as if it will melt from the slightest touch, being held gingerly between the two buns and sitting alongside lots of traditional Taiwanese street food dressing. My high hopes were completely fulfilled upon the first bite into the bao; the pork belly tasted as soft and tender as it looked, melting away in the mouth while leaving a distinct aromatic flavour that blended perfectly with the dressing. I am glad the braised pork belly bao was delivered to our table last, no matter if by design or by happenstance, it served to erase the bad memories of the chicken bao before it and helped the meal finish on a high note. BSAT of 9 out of 10 was achieved.
Overall, it was a very good dining experience and atmosphere inside the Belly Bao. We were there on a trivia night so the place was jam packed with very little standing room, definitely glad we had made a booking ahead of time and would recommend doing the same if you’d like to pay a visit to this place. I would personally come back again, especially on a Thursday, just to try their famous baoger, as well as the other baos that managed to escape from my clutches this time around.