The Fried Silky Tofu Gua Bao and Choi Bao
In typical Melbourne fashion, Wonderbao is a neat little servery, tucked down cobble-stoned Literature Lane. I was keen to try some Chinese food that wasn’t super-fine dining, but wasn’t your run of the mill, beef and blackbean, sweet-and-sour pork style venue either, and Wonderbao seems to fill this gap by adding a Chinese flavour to the easy eating food trends we're seeing right now. They are also the first Melbourne eatery that I’ve heard of that are jumping onto the boa train that is really taking off in the US.
Wonderbao's set up is pretty cute with its stamped steamers and clip-board menus. The venue itself is quite intimate with only one bench to eat on and a handful of stools - although this probably isn’t a huge issue though because the food is quite take-away friendly and comes out quite fast. You can also see the goings on in the kitchen, which suits the casual vibe of the place. The staff serving us were pretty relaxed and didn’t mind explaining to a uncultured white person (that was me!!) the deal with the buns. They also played some tasty beats, so extra points for that.
DA PORK BAO!
I ended up ordering the choi bao with shiitake mushrooms, tofu and vegies (pictured above) and the fried silky tofu gua bao. The choi bao was good and hearty (although it was a little plain) but I really enjoyed the tofu gua boa, which was beautifully presented in its little cardboard container and tasted fresh and light. I’m not really in to doughy foods, so I didn’t looove the buns, but the gua boa was a pleasant surprise (kind of what you'd get if you crossed an asian taco with a pancake), and was really, really tasty, bursting with colour while the tofu inside was well cooked and nicely textured.
My friend ordered two of 'da pork boa'. She demolished them and told me they were ‘just like Grandma used to make’ which was nice because she grew up in China. These little boas are carb-loaded and super stodgy, but I wish I’d had room for a sweeter, dessert style one.
Much like my post on Fonda with the horchata, I particularly liked how Wonderbao had a drinks fridge filled with a variety of ‘F.O.B Drinks’ (their words, not mine) which kind of added to the Chinese experience and gave me the opportunity to try a cold lemon tea which I probably wouldn’t have sampled normally- it was delicious. They continued with the theme with cups of warmed soy milk, which I hadn't tried before and ordered but didn’t really dig. I think I really just needed a coffee.
The prices here are really, really reasonable, almost too reasonable, and because of this, it will be hard to hold yourself back. The bao's rang from $1.70 to $3.80, which is crazy good. Despite only having two serves each, both of us were stuffed by the time we left so it’s probably a good idea to pace yourself as you enjoy your little buns.
Wonderbao is a great little place to visit if you find yourself hungry and with a couple of gold coins in the CBD. The menu is succinct, but sufficient and I would say that most people would be happy with the choice of boa's on offer. It would be great to see some extending to the menu, but Wonderboa's team is doing a great job at introducing their wonderboa's to Melbourne.
A NOTE ON DIRECTIONS!
I had wanted to go to Wonderbao for a few weeks before I finally made it but each time I tried, neither google maps or iPhone could find it. It might have been super easy for some people, but if you struggled like I did, I found the best way to get there was via little LaTrobe Street, and down Literature Lane where you can see Wonderbao from the end of the street. It’s super close to RMIT and Melbourne Central, but as Literature Lane is reletively new, I don’t think it’s appearing on many online maps.
Shop 4/ 19-37 A'Beckett Street
(Enter via Literature lane, off little Latrobe)
Good for: A quick and easy lunch or snack while in the city. They open from 8am, so I suppose you could visit Wonderbao for a quick and easy breakfast, if you like, too.Vegetarians: Are catered for with a couple of options on a pretty small menu.
Wait time: We nabbed some stools by the window at around 2pm on Wednesday. It was quiet, but got busy and then went quiet again, so I think the crowds come in waves.
Food waiting time: Minimal- probably about 5 minutes.
Cost: At $2 + $3.80 for my two buns and $2.80 + $1.60 for drinks, my total sat at $10.20 - a new Record for Poor Student Eats!