Owner Taylor Gilbert used to run Almighty Bao as pop-up. Now, he's brought on ex-Luther's cook Kyle Hough and together they're putting out an eight dish menu of untraditional bar food using steamed buns as a vehicle to showcase a blend of cuisines.
Their light, puffy bao are huge, hamburger bun-sized specimens, and they're not shy about loading them to capacity.
The California club bao ($8) will satisfy hold-over cravings for Luther's Chicken. It riffs on the classic chicken-bacon-tomato combo and comes topped with sushi roll-inspired garnishes like avocado, pickled cucumber, Kewpie mayo and seaweed.
Next up, the pork belly bao ($7) comes with hoisin-glazed meat, scallions and crushed peanuts. Gilbert and Hough salt, crust and roast the pork belly before pressing it, slicing it and crisping it up on the plancha.
The Mighty Burger ($8), lives up to its name, especially if you like your beef patties pancake thin and cooked until the exterior is crispy and caramelized.
The Vegetabao ($6) didn't standout for me on the menu. It sounded like a whole lot of garnish and not a lot of substance - I couldn't be more wrong. It's big and sloppy, but the piles of pickled cucumber, grated carrots, creamy avocado and crispy fried shallots are more than just sum of their parts; this bao might even be my favourite.
Aside from sandwiches, the menu features snack foods such as fried chicken dumplings ($7/5), which are finished with soy sauce and spicy mayo.
Mighty fries ($6) get points not just for featuring crispy, golden fries, but also for coming stacked in layers so that the bacon bits, nori, sesame seeds, avocado, Kewpie mayo and sriracha are dispersed throughout.
The fried 'fried rice' ball ($6), which comes topped with hoisin, ginger, scallions and Kewpie, is like an arancini and it's meant to be broken up and mixed together. The result is a plate of pork fried rice specked with crispy bits from the fried outer shell.
Seaweed salad ($6) is similar to what you'd find at any Asian supermarket, but it's dressed up with enoki mushrooms and finished with a sesame dressing. It's the first dish to the table and the last one gone; it serves as a palate cleanser between deep fried dishes.
In addition to the core menu, expect a rotating lineup of special features - like spicy chili chicken wings and a spicy chicken bao - to announce themselves on Instagram.
Photos by Jesse Milns