'Toronto' It's a Bao Time
It's a Bao Time is more than a clever pun, it's also where locals in York Region go for handmade bao, bahn mi, and other Asian-inspired bite-sized goodness. Occupying part of a space that was formerly Go for Tea, the dining room is spacious, bright, and cheerful.
On one end, there's a hand-painted mural and on the other, a blackboard filled with random guest scribbles, doodles and flavour suggestions.
I start with the Popcorn Chicken ($5). Reminiscent of similarly-named dishes found in Taiwanese restaurants, It's a Bao Time's version has a light spicy kick that I really like. Served with a side of peri-peri spicy mayonnaise, it's simply excellent.
The Bulgogi Kimchi Fries ($6) are also something special. Tender marinated bulgogi beef, lightly drizzled with sweet mayonnaise, rest beautifully on a bed of kimchi-infused fries. The harmony of taste and texture in the dish is immensely satisfying.
Getting to work on the bao, I order four different kinds. The Pork Belly Bao and Japanese Fried Chicken Bao ($4.69 each) are both up my alley. The fattiness of the roasted pork belly, and the juiciness of the crispy fried chicken, both pair nicely with the steamed bao.
Perhaps more unconventional is the Grilled Jerk Chicken Bao ($4.69). While some parts are a little too charred for my personal liking, I love the pronounced flavour of the jerk seasoning.
My personal favourite is the Battered Fish Bao ($4.99). Served with creamy coleslaw, the fish is fried beautifully, with a black pepper-encrusted batter that is simply perfect.
Beyond bao I try the Duck Confit Taco ($4.99) and the Korean Beef Bulgogi Banh Mi ($6.89). Though parts of that sandwich are a bit dry, the duck confit is well-seasoned and comes to life with the generous helping of sweet hoisin mayo.
The banh mi is by far the most substantial item on the menu, and the bulgogi is just as tender and beautifully sweet-savoury as the one found in the fries. The side of crispy Taro Chips ($3), lightly seasoned with Chinese five-spice and citrus zest, puts a satisfying exclamation mark on the meal.
To drink, a selection of Taiwanese bottled teas and Mexican flavoured soda pop ($3 each) are available.
For dessert, make sure to try the Nutella Bao ($3), a product of a customer suggestion from the blackboard wall. This fried bao dressed to the nines with Nutella and condensed milk and topped with icing sugar is a must-order.