A bao-themed restaurant that will make you full for less than P300
As Asian restaurant interiors go, Don Bao’s in Kapitolyo, Pasig, has a light, spacious, Scandi-meets-industrial-chic vibe. This modern visual delight translates into their food, both in taste and presentation. As you are served their baos and donburi bowls, you can’t help but reach for your phone to take a few shots for your instagram account before digging into the steaming rice bowls and the buns that are filled with lip-smacking sweet-savory umami flavors.
The relatively new eatery is run by four partners who were enamored with the baos that they tried on a trip to Hong Kong. They were looking into a food concept back then and realized that they had found it neatly wrapped in their hands. Kevin Te, one of the Don Bao partners, says, “the bao scene was already gaining popularity abroad, while here, it was offered as part of a more extensive menu, usually as one of the appetizers. We wanted to bring the bao concept home, and we divided the menu between the more familiar donburi and the filled buns.”
Since their baos are designed to be mains instead of appetizers, they are big and substantially stuffed with fillings that range from slightly sweet, to savory, and spicy. One good example of how they present their food ideas is the Crazy Bao, which has kani in eel sauce and Japanese mayo, tempura flakes, tobiko, and a sprinkling of spring onions. The Fire Bao is pork katsu with cabbage and pickles in Sriracha mayo; and the humorously named Bao Chicka Bao Bao is a serious sandwich of chicken katsu, coriander, and black sesame with kimchi. All baos are at P120 and they even offer two baos for P200. The idea was to play around with the buns and keep the donburi selections more conventional, Kevin explains.
Bao Chicka Bao Bao
Piggy Bao Ride
The donburi bowls are indeed much more straightforward, with the popular offerings of Katsudon, Chicken Teriyaki, Gyudon and Katsu Curry in satisfying portions over steaming-hot white rice. They are all priced at less than P300. “We wanted to keep everything affordable, we want to offer our customers value for money without skimping on quality. That is why we have attracted families and groups of friends usually at dinner and the office crowd for lunch.” They have also recently started offering a rich, tasty, and seriously—addicting Tonkotsu Ramen, because of popular demand. “So many people were literally requesting it, so we decided to add it to the menu. We are looking into offering a spicy version soon.”
Other menu offerings that are on the must-try list are the Wagyu Beef Cubes and the Gyoza appetizers, if one really intends to make a big meal out of their Don Bao visit. The Spam Musubi is a revelation, as the lunch meat was marinated before it was fried and strapped onto a bed of rice, so one does not get that out-of-the-can, then hastily fried taste of breakfast, but rather something sweet and meaty. One dessert is borne of one of Kevin’s favorite childhood food memories—Fried Bao with Milo and Condensed Milk.
Kevin, who is also part of the Frankie’s Wings chain, says that he is applying the same concepts that he has learned in the four years in that business with another group of friends. “People, especially the younger markets, are now looking for something that is Instagram worthy, but at the end of the day, you can only do so much with how things look. Customers will still go for value for money.” They key, he says, is to offer something good, affordable, and consistent.” With Don Bao, he is confident that they have achieved all three.