Sunnypark Plaza, Sunnybank
It's a sad state of affairs for me as a food blogger when even my dad is more in touch with new restaurants than I am. He told me about a new Shanghainese restaurant opening up in Sunnybank and we were curious to check it out. We actually popped in on its second day of service and encountered chaos. Kitchen staff were unable to keep up with orders and patrons were being turned away because the owners were losing control of the situation. Dad and I managed to get a table but it was about an hour before we were fed. I thought about blogging Bao's based on that but I assumed (and hoped) that the service would improve once they found their feet and I didn't want to give an unfair report.
In any case, my phone update happened around then and I lost my photos for that meal. A few weeks later, our family arranged another meal there, this time for dinner.
I arrived there late because I underestimated how far my new house is from absolutely everything. It had been storming in Sunnybank earlier (with reports of hail) and the Sunnypark Plaza carport was flooded. Considering these circumstances, Bao's was fairly busy on this Saturday night. It wasn't as full and chaotic as my previous experience but I think that's more to do with their service smoothing out than there actually being less people.
We were seated outside and thankfully it had stopped raining by then. Because my dad is impatient and because I generally make no contribution to ordering food at Chinese restaurants, dad had already set down an order by the time I arrived. This was good for me because food started coming to our table not long after.
Braised pork hock
Our first dish was the braised pork hock. This is a typical Shanghainese dish and the degree of success is related to tenderness of meat and how well the flavour has been integrated. Bao's did well on both fronts as well as managing to make the skin deliciously gooey and gelatinous.
Braised deep-fried gluten
Next we tasted the kao fu which is a dish of braised, fried gluten, also very typically Shanghainese. My parents sometimes cook their version at home. Despite being vegetarian, I really enjoy this dish because the spongey gluten cubes soak up so much delicious sweet soy flavour.
The panfried wontons made for a nice alternative to the usual panfried bun or gyoza type sides. These had a pork and shepherds purse filling, which we normally use for soup wontons. The only difference was the crispy golden bottom. I would have liked some kind of dipping sauce, even plain soy sauce would do. There may have been sauces available inside but there wasn't any within reach from the outside tables.
Razor clams with ginger and shallot
The razor clams was the only dish I didn't try. I have nothing against seafood but this mollusc looked too tentacley for me. I'm also paranoid about eating cooked frozen seafood because my stomach's had some bad experiences. Those who did try this dish said that for non-fresh shellfish, it was fairly acceptable. I tasted a bit of the sauce and thought that was very nice.
Fresh and salted pork broth
There's a broth we often have in Shanghai which in mandarin is called yan du xian. It's meant to be comprised of salted pork, fresh pork and bamboo shoots (traditionally, it shouldn't have bok choi). This version at Bao's was what my dad referred to as 'msg stock'. It didn't have much depth of flavour that is essential in making such a simple dish stand out. There were pork bones in the stock but it didn't seem like they were cooked out long enough to create that almost opaque, silky broth texture we were after. The other flaw was the lack of tofu skin knots. I remember being at my grandmas house as a child actually making those knots to put in her soup. They're my favourite part because they soak up broth and burst in your mouth with salty porky flavour. I think we only located one tofu skin knot and it went to my grandpa.
Stir-fried pork and mushroom
Next was a stir-fried pork and shiitake mushroom dish. I didn't mind this one. It tasted like something you would get from a Chinese takeaway, very saucy sweet and salty and went excellently with white rice. My grandpa wasn't a huge fan, I'm guessing because it's not authentically Shanghainese.
Deep-fried duck wraps
Our final dish was deep-fried duck wraps. Peking duck wraps are something I could eat every day of my life and not get sick of. It was interesting to try this alternative, which comprised of crispy deep fried duck pieces and a fermented bean sauce.
Individual duck wrap
It was definitely different to Peking duck but also very delicious. This was probably the standout dish of the night.
Our dinner at Bao's Shanghainese Restaurant was overall quite pleasant. The owner is proper Shanghainese (as questioned by my family) so you can ascertain a degree of authenticity. The highlight of the night was the deep fried duck wraps and I'm glad the service issues from their first week seem to have smoothed out.