October 5, 2011

Over the summer of 2011, Baohaus opened its second outpost on 14th St. and I took the short walk to see what all of the fuss was about. I don’t know how I feel about steamed sandwiches. My only previous experience with steamed sandwiches has been the pork buns from the Kuma Inn. I felt that the best way to get a good sample of what Baohaus has to offer was via the Straight Frush combo, this way, I could sample three sandwiches in one sitting (Note: The combo options are no longer on the menu). Below are my findings. Oddly enough, the order I ate the sandwiches in was also the order I liked the sandwiches in.

The Chairman Bao was excellent. I’m new to eating pork belly, but I’ve been enjoying it so much I’m pretty much ordering it on sight nowadays. And this was a wise decision because this is a tasty little sandwich. Not only does the sandwich feature pork belly, it also has crushed peanut, cilantro, Haus Relish, and Taiwanese red sugar. The meat and the bread are what really make this sandwich work. I couldn’t really taste the cilantro, relish, and sugar (but the sandwich does have a red hue, which must be the sugar). But this sandwich isn’t about those, it’s about the meat and the bread. The pork is well made and there’s a nice hunk of fat peeking over the bread (and we all know the fat is the best part of pork belly). This sandwich leaves you wanting more but in a good way. I can’t even fathom how many of these I would need to eat in order to be full, but I’m willing to try.

My next sandwich was the Birdhaus Boa, which features free range chicken, spicy salt, cilantro, and crushed peanuts. Although not as tasty as the Chairman, it did have its perks. The chicken has two types of taste. The first is the crispy outside. Because the sandwich is topped with the crushed peanuts, they give the chicken a lot of added flavor. The second taste is when you bite into the sandwich and only get the inside of the chicken. The inside of the chicken is nice and juicy and you can taste the fact that the chicken was brined over night.  The problem with the dressing is it pools at the bottom of the sandwich. Thus, rather than coating the meat, the dressing only coats the bottom of the bed. I kind of didn’t see the point of it being on there if it’s only meant to give the bread more flavor.

Sadly, the Robin Givens Bao was the worst of the three, mainly because it had so much going on yet it still tasted flavorless. The sandwich features chicken, Sichuan peppercorns, chilis, garlic, cumin, cilantro, and cucumber slivers. One problem is, all of these items mask the flavor of the chicken. I can’t recall tasting any chicken, you’d think with all of these spice the sandwich would be somewhat spicy but it isn’t spicy at all. Months later, and that is all I remember about that sandwich.

The Robin Givens Bao has been replaced with the Adobo Bao, which features chicken and pork. Although I haven’t had this boa just yet, it sounds like a vast improvement over the Robin Givens (at least on paper it does).

I’m fairly new to eating sandwiches on steamed buns and it’s actually quite refreshing eating a sandwich on extremely soft and fluffy bread. With a steamed sandwich you don’t need to tear through the bread to get to the meat. It’s almost as if the meat becomes one with the bread and melts into each bite. The main disadvantage though is the size. I almost consider these to be Asian sliders, thus there is a need for someone my size to order many in order to get full. I’ve never seen a steamed bun larger than 5 inches long or so, and I wonder if the bread just can’t get any bigger and still be stable. Also, I felt like the bread itself is a little bland.

Although my order was hit and miss, I blame my lack of familiarity with the menu and cooking methods. I’ll be going back, and I might possibly order only many, many Chairman Baos when I do, as I didn’t actually fell full after eating three of these. These little sandwiches are too good to pass up, it’ll just take me some time to navigate the menu to figure out which sandwiches I like the best. But the sandwiches are so small, you really just want more and more when you’re done. My best recommendation: find the sandwich (or sandwiches) that you like, and order multiples of the same one. You’re less likely to be disappointed this way, and eating three sandwiches with one kind of meat will make you feel like you’ve had one sandwich.

Baohaus is located at 238 14th St. (; @baohausnyc).