If 2013 is remembered for cronuts, 2014 for further food mashups (right down to dessert pizzas) juxtaposed with a growing vegan movement, could 2015 be the year of the bao, signalling a return to simple classics?
The humble steamed buns from Taiwan have been enjoying more than their fifteen seconds in the spotlight, with Bao London one of the city’s hottest openings this year following on from a successful run as a street stall. Time Out correctly predicted Momofuku-style buzz and queues, but as this foodie found, it’s worth the inevitable wait at the “Bao Stop” in Soho for the pillowy offerings inside (you can catch my full review, here).
On this side of the world, the Asian gastropub Fatty Bao recently opened its quirky doors on Bandra’s Linking Road among much hype and fanfare. Reservations are notoriously hard to come by with bookings made over a week in advance – a sure-fire sign if there ever was one, of a restaurant’s popularity in a city that functions on last minute plans.
A table secured, I excitedly headed over with a group of girlfriends for a little Monday pick me up.
The decor and vibes at Fatty Bao can be summed up quite simply in a word, as fun. The gaily coloured walls are festooned with kitsch artwork while little Japanese dolls sit demurely on each table, doubling up as salt and pepper shakers.
Seeing as a GNO (Girl’s Night Out) would be incomplete without a cocktail or two in hand, we kicked off the evening with Fatty’s signature libations. A Fatty Sour for me – a fruity take on the classic whisky-based cocktail with raspberries, lime and sugar bound together by an egg white. An easy one to sip on, but personally I found that it could have done with a touch more froth and a tad less sweetness…
The girls fared well with the Mandalay Bay though, a towering concoction of Jasmine tea infused in vodka, shaken with lime juice and orange slices, topped with ginger ale. I have to say the drinks here were more than generous in size, making it quite the feat for us to get through each.
For eats, we started with the eponymous dish. The fried eggplant bao was a moreish balance of flavours – crisp and crunchy slices of fried aubergine marinated in miso, laced vibrantly with a spicy Sriracha between kimchi cabbage. While the non-veggies found much to please in the char siu bao – soft white buns stuffed creatively with BBQ pork belly, green apple kimchi and scallions and sharply dressed with hoisin sauce and sesame oil.
Next up, was a selection from the extensive list of small plates.
A beautiful combination of textures, the brie tempura was as appealing visually as it was on the palate, with pickled beets forming a delicate ring around neat golden wedges of melt-in-your-mouth brie cheese, lightly drizzled with a sweet plum sauce and toasted almonds.
The fatty lotus root on the other hand, was a surprisingly bold dish – crunchy lotus root, snow peas and cashew nuts stir fried in a fiery kung pao sauce.
We also tried the asparagus and cream cheese sushi, which I’m sad to report did not live up to its promised potential. The sushi arrived shockingly lukewarm and the cream cheese tasted almost stale.
The mains however were spot on, validating the recommendations and praise that have been sung in favour of Fatty’s ramen and curries.
The girls went for the green curry chicken katsu ramen – quite a mouthful to say and to have – crisp crusted chicken leg, okra, garlic chips and a soft boiled egg swimming in a robust pool of chicken broth combined with green curry and coconut milk, seasoned with red chillies, spring onions and marinated chicken floss!
Fatty quite helpfully divvied up the ramen into two bowls to share, a tactical move as this looked like one worthy of fighting over the last spoonful for.
Meanwhile I tucked into a hearty Thai red curry prepared with seasonal vegetables and lotus root. The richness of the coconut cream used in the curry was offset by the sharp and spicy undertone, and it paired incredibly well with the sticky yet tender jasmine rice. The condiments and crackers on the side were a nice added touch.
We finished up with a green tea chiffon cake, which was kindly on the house. More sour than sweet, and intensely citrusy, this has to have been one of the most unique desserts I’ve had in Bombay yet – a light yuzu (a citrus-based fruit) parfait cocooned within a spongy shell flavoured with green tea, while a tangy yuzu sorbet sat lightly on top. As a matcha lover, the only quibble I had was that the bittersweet richness of the green tea could have been brought out much further… Nonetheless, it was a light and refreshing way to round up our heavy dinner!
Fatty Bao, Ground Floor, Summerville, Junction of 14th and 33rd Road, Linking Road, Bandra West, Mumbai