Restaurant reviews

Restaurant review: Bao?

Mariella Rendon

This huarique offers a different proposal for Limeños in need of a quick bite or late night recharge.

When we arrive to Bao?, the first thing I do is prop myself against the counter and stick my nose into the kitchen, from where Javier Miyasato smiles to us. From our nearby table we can see everything, from the cooks preparing baos, to Andrea at the register. It’s a small place, a huarique like the Peruvians say, but it has a lot of personality.

The name Bao? comes from the fusion of the Peruvian expression vao? – let’s go? – with the name – bao – of the small bread.

We sat with Marcelo Wong (Peruvian artist known for his “gordito” sculptures), and his two cousins, Andrea and Javier Miyasato, who recently opened Bao? along with Marcelo’s wife. With seating for about 15 people and plenty of standing room, it’s a little place just off of the 12th block of Av. La Mar.

(Photo: Living in Peru/ Amara Photos)

How was the idea of Bao born?

[Javier] With all our family we went to China because Marcelo had won a prize. There we saw the street food [baos] and loved it. Due to this experience we decided to open a bao place, so we travelled to New York and did the Bao route to try them all. When we came back to Lima we chose to create a different and new proposal.

I think what we liked the most about New York is that there were a lot of cool places that were really tasty and not necessarily very big. In that sense New York opened our eyes a lot. One of the tendencies we had discussed in our trips was that Lima was gastronomically growing so much with a growth that also included the size of the proposals – very big establishments with huge inversion amounts – , and maybe what was missing was to point to the other direction. That’s what we have tried to do here, something small where we could put in all this informality of creating dishes the same day, try different things, write on the board what we’ll be offering that day,- [something] that a much more structured place doesn’t allow you to do. In that sense we have a lot of fun.

(Photo: Living in Peru/ Amara Photos)

How much time passed between the idea, the tests and the opening?

[Marcelo] It took like eight months since the idea began to become a reality. It seems quick but we felt the time quite a lot. From there we did three weeks of a trial run (marcha blanca) and total learning. Javier comes from formats of much bigger restaurants and tells us that the planning and the way of working are totally not the same. Every week has been different to the other. On the first weekend all the baos finished on the same day and we had to stay all night making them to be able to handle the next days. We have been improving. [The day Living in Peru visited was the first day Boa? had officially opened.]

You are four: do each of you have a specific role?

[Marcelo] We are three cousins and my wife and we come from totally different backgrounds that it’s worked out very well: Maja, my wife, sees customer service, Javier sees all the cooking part, Andrea studied Hospitality and restaurants’ structure and has been guiding and doing our format. Bao?‘s format is very similar to the one of art for me, because it has to do a lot with people and the presentation. Each of us has contributed with what we know. For me it has been very exciting and honestly the customers’ reaction has been incredible. We are dedicating a lot of our time to it because it has really grown on us, but it’s also resulted in taking a little bit of time away from the other things we have been doing.

(Photo: Living in Peru/ Amara Photos)

How will the future of Bao be?

We have been talking about this because sometimes we think that we’ll stay small yet the idea of growing is with us all the time. With this format the connection with people is something we really like and I think we want to keep following this path, that in Lima is not very followed. With a bigger place I think it would lose its touch. One of the things that put us together is that we love to eat and here we have bet on what we really like.

So, on to the food…

To fight Lima’s cold weather we tried an Emoliente and the Infusión Ninja, with lemon verbena, lemon and maracuyá. Marcelo and Javier fill our table with probably all the dishes on the menu. The majority are of course baos, little pieces of steamed bread filled with pork, chicken shitake mushrooms or a combination of the three. Here they don’t serve gourmet portions, with one or two – each for S/ 9 – you can be full.

(Photo: Living in Peru/ Amara Photos)

My favourite bao is absolutely the Confucio, called like that because it’s like a confused vegetarian: half mushrooms and half pork. We followed this with the Red Dragon, containing crunchy chicken and sriracha. One has to mention the Chanchiears, which are fried pig ears. I would never in my life have ordered them myself, but they surprised me with their delicious flavour. They are very similar in aspect and consistency to chicharrón de calamar. We also tried the well-portioned rice bowls – gohan – with pork, chicken and shitakes.

We closed our feast with a Bombita Fuji, a sweet and fried bao filled with manjar blanco, like a churro but softer. We left full and happy: a culinary experience that you definitely can’t miss.

Calle José domingo Choquehuanca 411 Miraflores (12th block of La Mar)

Wed – Sat: 1 pm – 11 pm
Sun: 1 pm – 5 pm

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