The spirit of 1980s Hong Kong lives on with Bao Bei, a Chinese/Cantonese-style retro eatery located on the fringes of Saigon’s District 3.
I was around in the 80s (ahem), but unfortunately not in Hong Kong, because judging by Bao Bei’s interior, I would’ve liked it.
The owners have managed to ignite my imagination with the venue’s decor, so much so, that they have me believing this is the archetypal Hong Kong experience of eating in and around its snug alleyways and boisterous eateries of the time.
They achieve it with colourful iridescent neon signs that blaze away overhead and all around, some of them with illuminated Chinese characters telling us, presumably, the restaurant’s name and that dim sum and drinks are for sale.
Meanwhile, red lanterns hanging from the ceiling and tasty looking ducks dangling by the crooks of their necks in view from the kitchen, complete the mise en scene.
Perhaps only rain drizzling down opaque windows with shady characters trying to peer in might top it.
But let’s not forget the menu. That’s why I’m here.
And it’s extensive.
On it their are dumplings ranging in price from VND59,000 for three pieces of siu mai with steamed pork and shrimp to VND189,000 for a steamed shrimp, crab and pork dumpling soup.
And for those who like to go posh with their dim sum, there are also black truffle oil, venison and Lingzhi mushroom dumplings for VND89,000 for three pieces.
The steamed dishes are all VND74,000, including chicken feet with Guilin sauce.
Those less adventurous can go for more regular dishes, like the aforementioned roasted duck (VND336,000 for half), crab and sweet corn soup (VND84,000) and sweet and sour pork (VND168,000).
But while you’re here, why not try some goose specialties.
There are a number of goose dishes on the menu starting at VND299,000 for stir-fried goose with chili paste Sichuan style, and go up to VND490,000 for a quarter of a roasted goose done Sham Tseng style.
There’s plenty of dim sum to be had in this great city, but perhaps not as much done this well in this style with this kind of ambiance overseen by an “imported” chef from the Fragrant Harbour itself.
Make sure to reserve a table as it gets busy.
Open from 11am to 10pm.
Be adventurous and try the chicken feet
If you love things hot and spicy, this might be the place for you
Don’t be turned off by the address, Bao Bei isn’t far from District 1
Bao Bei is in an office block, you’ll find it eventually
Don’t forget Bao Bei is open for lunch till late
Words & photos by Matthew Cowan. Follow Matt on Instagram at @mattcowansaigon
Bao Bei is at 285 Cach Mang Thang 8 St., District 10, HCMC