Industry vets, Matt Adolfo and Chef Greg Edwards are the duo behind Gastown’s newest restaurant, which had a very popular soft opening last month, as an eager crowd lined up along Powell Street.
Bao Down is a casual joint that offers quick bites in take-out fashion. Since its opening, the Asian-style eatery has seen a steady stream of foodies and Gastown lunch-goers, and the success is almost surprising considering the new venture emerged from a spontaneous decision.
Co-owner Adolfo recalls the moment when they decided to open the restaurant, “Greg and I were searching for baos one day and we didn’t know where we could find a decent shop, so I thought – let’s open our own,” he says.
“There seems to be a need for Asian street food in Vancouver. We wanted to bring something new to the local scene, and serving up decent baos was the best way to do it.”
For many like Adolfo, baos bring back memories. These steamed rice buns are a popular fixture in Hong Kong’s hub of street food stalls and bustling hawker centres, and have been remade in countless variations that go beyond their traditional form.
Vancouver does have its fair share of both traditional and casual pan-Asian fare, but few have yet to attempt an original take on bao buns. So, the team decided to take on the concept and give it a modern twist. Instead of the traditional bun form, baos are served sandwich-style. Behind the counter, staff prepare fresh steamed baos and wrap them taco-style around tasty fillings.
The ‘Bao Chicka Bao Bao’ teases with savoury fried lemon grass chicken, garlic, cilantro and daikon, while the ‘Jaws Bao’ offers up crispy catfish with coconut, kimchi, tartar and thai vinaigrette. While the baos themselves are custom made offsite, most items on the menu are locally sourced and prepared fresh in-house.
Vegans, vegetarians and meat lovers will have no problem finding something to appease their appetite. The menu, which rotates seasonally, offers six variations of baos ($6) and Vietnamese banh-mi-style sandwiches ($10-12), as well as sides like hand-cut Kennebec potatoes fries, kimchi fries, and a fresh watercress salad to round out the offerings.
Guests can order items to go, or stay and hang out. Exposed brick and reclaimed wood give the room a casual, clubhouse feel. “We pretty much crafted the space by hand,” says Adolfo. To transform the heritage space, local artist, Tim Barnard was enlisted to create a custom Ninja Mural, a black & white depiction that pays tribute to 90s martial arts posters. “We wanted to make use of the left over lumber, so we also built sound dampening walls for the 90’s music we love to play,” he says.
The team stands behind what they’ve created, but are still quite overwhelmed with Bao Down’s growing popularity. Now, the focus is on bringing something new to the table and keeping up with the demand.
As for what’s next, expect to see some new creations including a wagyu beef bao burger, dessert baos, and Asian-style tapas. And, with an expanded dinner menu in the works, we don’t expect the buzz will wear off anytime soon.
Come see what all the fuss is about. Bao Down is open Monday through Saturday at 12 Powell Street.