When I was in Hong Kong, I often made a meal of three or four bao, stopping at a sidewalk stall and ordering the steamed buns filled with pork or duck. They were extremely satisfying and did not slow me down on my journeys through the city’s winding streets and lanes. They were a perfect lunch. Since that winter of 2013, I have tried bao wherever I could find them, including New York, Paris and Houston. I have eaten some good ones and also had my share of less-than-good ones.
In the former category is Fat Bao, a small restaurant on Kirby specializing in bao that happens to be near my office — a coincidence of which I take advantage several times a month. A recent visit for lunch with a friend included a pork belly bun and one featuring soft -shell crab (the Crab Daddy), both of which turned out to be great choices, especially the crab. (The pork belly needed a bit more time in the oven, because it was not as tender as it had been on a previous visit.) The crustacean was lightly battered and fried, and the accompanying slaw was slightly sweet, with an acidity that made the bun a perfect few bites. It left me wanting more, something I consider to be a good thing.
The buns are always moist and hot, and the slaw is crisp and blended just right. If the pork belly and crab don’t strike your fancy, you can order bulgogi or tuna tacos, or baos containing tempura fish, house-smoked salmon, or fried chicken, among many other choices.
In addition, Fat Bao offers a good selection of wine and beer, including local brews and select imports, such as Hitachino Nest.