Chef Andrew Walsh’s latest venture, Bao Boy, is a fun and casual gastronomic adventure across Asia in a Chinese-style mantou bun.
Chef Andrew Walsh – the man behind Cure and Butcher Boy on Keong Saik Road – is best known for his unique spin on refined casual dining, but his latest F&B venture Bao Boy combines Asian-inspired buns, affordable tipples and rock chic aesthetics for his most fun and laid-back concept yet.
Bao Boy is built around the Chinese bao – the steamed buns commonly served in Singapore alongside chilli crab to mop up the spicy gravy – but is then elevated with fancy fillings. Chef-owner Walsh unabashedly admits his new restaurant bar was indirectly inspired by the recent burger craze in Singapore (thanks to the likes of Shake Shack).
“As a spin-off of the burger craze, I created steamed bao sandwiches that were added to the menu at Butcher Boy and the feedback was amazing – this gave me the idea of opening a bao-centric restaurant-bar and Bao Boy was born,” shares Walsh.
What’s different about Bao Boy from the usual burger places however – aside from the use of those buns – are the fillings, which are inspired by Asian flavours. In fact, Bao Boy looks and feels like what a young rock star chef from London or San Francisco would set up after a whirlwind gastronomic eating tour around Asia.
You’re looking at the likes of its Fried Chicken & Cheese Bao ($14++), the original inspiration from Butcher Boy, that’s slathered with Japanese yuzu kosho for a citrusy spice kick. Or how about the Beef Satay Bao ($16++), a hat-tip to the favourite Malay meat-on-a-stick dish complete with a rich peanut sauce? Then there’s the Lamb Bao ($16++), with its Korean gochujang sauce and pickles to perk up the tonkatsu-style deep-fried breaded patty of shredded lamb. And for a taste of Vietnam, a Pulled Pork Banh Mi Bao ($14++) with a cheeky hit of Sriracha.
Just note – the buns are rather pricy for what they are with just one bun per portion.
If you’re not into buns, Bao Boy offers various sharing plates that are similarly Asian-inspired. The keto-friendly Hamachi Sashimi ($14++) is ceviche done Japanese-style, while the Salmon Tartare Nachos ($12++) takes deep fried wonton skins and layers it with smoked salmon, ikura and a wasabi avocado cream. More bizarre is the Chilli Crab Mac & Cheese ($16++), which takes gives a Singaporean spin to mac and cheese with housemade chilli crab sauce.
Oh, make sure you save space for dessert – the Fried Peanut Butter & Jelly Bao ($8++) is delish. If Elvis Presley had an Asian brother, the latter would totally eat many of these to death.
But what we’d come back for are the cocktails, and especially because of the prices. There’s Ryokucha ($15++), the roasted green tea infused gin giving the Negroni take an additional layer of pleasant bitterness. The Tango Punch ($15++) is a refreshing hit of tropical flavours, while the vodka-based Pandan Martini ($15++) – with its gula melaka vermouth – tastes like the local dessert chng tng.
The Chai Masala Tini ($15++) tastes exactly as inspired, but can be a bit overwhelming on the spices and sweetness for some. On the other hand we really like the Coco de Creme ($15++), a gin sour made more interesting with a touch of coconut cream.
But our favourite is the very simple Irish Ball ($15++), a whiskey highball made with Jameson whiskey that’s turned into a complex tipple with the addition of umeshu and ginger; a very Japanese touch commonly found in izakayas all over Osaka and Tokyo.
If one had to describe Bao Boy as a person, it’s celebrity chef David Chang – he’s cross-cultural, is loud, boozy, loves big flavours, and rather unapologetic about bastardising his food.