Offering nothing but bao (or steamed buns for the uninitiated…), Wonderbao has rapidly gained popularity in Melbourne. Gastrology bloggers recently headed down the little alleyway behind RMIT that Wonderbao calls home to see what all the fuss is about.
The menu is small, much like the venue, and offers a range of regular bao and, after 10:30 am, gua bao (best described as open bao wraps with more gourmet fillings).
In order to test drive Wonderbao, we ordered 2 bao classics – taro bao and char siu bao and the roast pork belly gua bao.
From left: Roast pork belly gua bao, Char siu bao, Taro bao
Unfortunately, the taro bao and char siu bao were entirely unexceptional. Whilst of a good standard, they were no better than those freely available in the freezer of any asian grocery store for a fraction of the price. At the end of the day, what you are really paying your $2 for at Wonderbao is the act of steaming the bun, not really the bun itself.
The roast pork belly gua bao was pleasant. Featuring the tried and true flavour combination of cucumber, carrots and hoisin sauce, it contained a generous piece of good quality, tender pork belly.
Wonderbao has rapidly built up a loyal following as a result of offering convenient snack food at "spare change" prices. Whilst not terrible by any means, we were simply not impressed by both the quality and value of the standard bao offerings.
The gua baos are more unique and flavoursome and, unlike the standard baos, can't be purchased frozen in bags of 6 for $3 from Asian grocers. However, at $4.20 each, the value proposition does start to become less compelling, especially if you need to buy several for lunch.
At the end of the day, Wonderbao is achieving great success because it satisfies the pent up demand of Melbournians for fresh bao on the go for reasonable prices. However, having tasted the food on offer, we believe the hype is unjustified.