It’s love at first bite. Sister Kong’s feisty, party-in-the-mouth- inducing signature saffron chicken bao is a pulse-quickening combo of super-crunchy SKB (Sister Kong Bao) fried chicken, tangy pickled red onion, refreshing bean sprouts, and the light minty freshness of a killer slaw, all wrapped in the slight sweetness of a fluffy saffron bao. It’s a booming flavour hit to be sure, and a two-handed affair at that, literally bursting with flavours; I make a note to mop up the drips on the plate with some of the loaded fries when I’m done. We take the GF option on the twice-cooked pork belly, which switches out the bao for a lettuce cup that wraps succulent, crispy-skinned pork belly piquant with hoisin sauce, tangy pickled apple and the fresh crunch of cucumber. It’s magic between sips of the chilli hum of the Crown Prince Li-Bi – the venue’s tricked up version of a margarita – and the mega crunch of the miso-grilled cabbage.
Tucked down Victoria Street’s trendiest lane, we follow the welcoming neon-pink pawed fortune cat (based on the design work of local artist Joel Hart) to the city’s hot new home of bodacious bao. Channelling the pimped-out cool of a Hong Kong baijiu house, the Hoop Group’s(Sam and Sally Hooper) expansion of their Pot Sticker Dumpling empire brings the epic street flavours of Hong Kong and Taipei to the city. We’re surrounded by edgy cool – there’s bamboo scaffolding around the bar, rough plastered walls, and slick wooden tables where booth seating popping with brightly coloured cushions is flanked by a jungle of tropical plants, and flocks of red bird cages and lanterns hang from the ceiling. On the largest wall are the tirelessly waving paws of 100 gold fortune cats, a great give-back initiative that offers customers the option to adopt one for $100, with all money raised going to animal welfare and rescue organisation Paw Justice. Scanning the menu, which spans Something to Start, Dumplings, Bao, Ya Need Some Greens and The Sweet Stuff, we decide to end the torment the loaded fries incited after we saw them on Facebook and tag in the sesame satay wontons as well. The golden crunchy fries are piled high with shiitake mushrooms, Kewpie mayo (natch), toasted peanuts, spicy nori, and 16(!) herbs and spices, and are drizzled with truffle oil. Pulling out the fries while keeping the toppings intact is like the tastiest game of Jenga ever, while the wantons’ plump parcels of pork and prawn are a massive hit with their velvety sesame satay sauce. We’ve overdone it, but put the ice cream bao at the top of our to-do list before leaving.
123 Victoria Street
03 421 6494