Baohaus NYC: Taiwanese Street Food on the Lower East Side
Is there room for yet another cheap, all-hours place to grab a quick bite on the Lower East Side? If it serves up Taiwanese food as tasty, as original, as lovingly-prepared as the buns (and sides) that we had last week at newcomer Baohaus NYC, then the answer is most definitely yes. Not that David Chang and his Momofuku empire have anything to worry about, re: best pork buns in town, but the fun and funky Baohaus NYC uses fresh, well-sourced ingredients, cooks them with care in their tiny kitchen, and delivers for a satisfying snack, late-night or otherwise.
Baohaus NYC deals in Taiwanese street food, and its menu is so tightly focused (a k a, so short) that we are able to try just about everything in a single visit. The stars here are the "authentically prepared" Gua Baos, or steamed bun sandwiches. We wolfed the two meaty varieties (there's also an organic tofu model), and would happily do the same again. Like, tonight. The signature Haus Bao, over-filled with Niman Ranch skirt steak, crushed peanuts, cilantro, a bring-the-heat "Haus relish", and Taiwanese red sugar, was particularly good, the meat tender, juicy, and not overwhelmed by all the flavors fighting for our attention. The pork-belly-based Chairman Bao was almost as good, though it could have used a bit more pig. It's tough to balance sandwiches like these–salty, sweet, spicy, moist, crunchy, chewy–but at Baohaus, so far, they're succeeding.
Start with boiled peanuts at Baohaus NYC, which is actually the only choice, but it's still a good one. We've only had this down-home Southern and–who knew?–Taiwanese food specialty twice before, at an IGA supermarket in Georgia (they were fine) and at The Breslin up at the Ace Hotel (they were amazing) so we're no experts, but Baohaus NYC seems to make a totally acceptable version: soft, aromatic, with big hit of rice vinegar. Messy but addictive. Finally, there's the Sweet Bao Fries, which turned out to be more dessert than side dish, with the bao, or roll, sliced up, coated in sugar, deep fried, then drizzled with a sesame sauce. After our initial surprise (we didn't read the menu very carefully, and were expecting, you know… like french fries), we were won over by the sweet, chewy dish.
Baohaus NYC Details
Baohaus NYC is located on Rivington Street between Norfolk and Suffolk Streets on the Lower East Side, and is open from 12:00 noon until 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and until 2:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. There are no tables here, just stools along a couple of counters, but this is food that gets eaten quickly, so the wait isn't too long even at peak hours. The crowd is young and hip; the music loud and hip-hop. For more information and to view the menu, visit the Baohaus NYC website.