Bao Down is the second outpost for co-owners Matt Adolfo and Greg Edwards who found immediate success with their first Gastown location less than a year ago. Expansion has come fast with their newest location in Olympic Village, a neighbourhood that is quickly becoming a centre of gravity for new, but decent eateries and brew pubs.
I decided to head over there for lunch on Tuesday, thinking it would be quieter, giving me more space and time to fully enjoy the food and take notes. Little did I know (although I should have suspected) that the place would be packed by 12:30 pm, with a line out the door. This is serious Asian fusion street food that will bring people in packs. When you find something delicious, it only makes sense to share it with your squad. Luckily, I was able to take pictures of the space before the crowd came.
The interiors reminded me of a place where Will Smith’s alter-ego, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air would hang out. The hip-hop vibe was reinforced by local artist’s Taka Sudo’s pseudo spray-painted wall mural. On the opposite wall, reclaimed barn wood panels were installed which framed the live edge tables just perfectly.
Not feeling super hungry but wanted to try at more than one thing, I opted for the Kare Bear Steamed Bao, their signature, of course - along with the Albacore Tuna Poke Bowl. The Bao was tasty. The local braised shortrib was blended in a peanut sauce with green onions, pea shoots, and crispy garlic, topped with a tempura bok choy that lends a refreshingly crispy texture to the more soft and chewy white bao that wraps the meat like a taco. My poke bowl arrived with much fanfare in its presentation - under a cloud of deep fried vermicelli noodles, the albacore tuna poke lay marinated in a sweet shoyu-sesame sauce served under a bed of white rice, avocado, nori, cucumber, wakame, red onion, scallions, sesame and pickled ginger. The albacore was flavourful and tender while the salad offered a light yet filling option as a lunch entree.
They’re now also open for brunch with a Hawaiian theme, serving steamed Baos as well as main dishes off the griddle. Happy Hour will also continue to keep this place packed with buck-a-shuck oysters on the half shell. I’ll definitely be back for those.
115 West 2nd Avenue, Vancouver