For the love of food
Food author Michael Pollan advises, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” It seems a bit silly to offer instructions for such a basic and instinctive thing like eating, but in a time of overabundant food options with questionable origins, we can truly benefit from this reminder: Keep it simple. a it fresh.
It is this exact methodology that Bào embraces. Situated on Gyeongnidan’s main road between Noxa Lounge and Porchetta, Bào is straightforward: a no-frills stir-fry restaurant where you create your own dish. First choose your grain — rice or noodles — then add all the other stuff: bok choy, broccoli, garlic, ginger, king oyster mushrooms, carrots, tofu, prawns, chicken, beef or pork; then consider your extras (cilantro, cashews, lemongrass, lime leaf or basil). Finally, you choose your sauce, and all the fixings are thrown into a wok in rapid succession over an intense flame. As the Chinese name “Bào” suggests, the ingredients sizzle and pop, then arrive at your table steaming and perfectly caramelized. Bào’s manager Marsha explains, “It’s how we like to eat: simple, fast, healthy. This restaurant is an extension of us.”
Co-owners Marsha Taylor and Michael Yantzi met in 2004 through Michael’s cousin, who happened to be Marsha’s roommate in an apartment they shared above Paris Baguette in Gyeongnidan. Both Marsha and Michael grew up near Toronto, Canada, but they didn’t cross paths until after coming to Korea. Their courtship and romance, unsurprisingly, included delicious home-cooked meals and Michael’s unforgettable Thai sauce. Marsha was convinced it needed to be displayed in a restaurant. Their restaurant. “I knew Mike had talent,” she says, and smiles. His classmates at Le Cordon Bleu, where he trained in Sydney, would undoubtedly agree.
For her, food meant family. “My mother taught me how to cook Jamaican cuisine. ... I was always her assistant,” Marsha explains. From then on, she always wanted to own a restaurant on a beach, but it seemed like an improbable dream. “I longed to be near water, mingling and meeting people,” she says. While the streets of Gyeongnidan aren’t exactly a tropical setting — “Concrete is a close second to water!” Michael jokes — their network of friends gathered support and encouragement, and Bào was born in 2011.
Bào offers what you think you could make at home, but does it better. Their three giant gas ranges cook food rapidly, producing a charred flavor that only intense heat can attain, and their woks do the rest. The shape of the wok allows for versatility in cooking several things at once, at different temperatures. And in the wok, the flavors are truly Bào-made: Each dish affects the next, and this creates a unique treat, one involving the histories of the foods that came before (this is the “food memory” of a well-seasoned wok).
Bào is about balance, but there’s no need to limit yourself when every option is a delicious and healthy one, and it’s really fun to create your own dishes without having to do the cooking. Perfectly charred cruciferous greens infused with multiple layers of flavors — whether it’s the sassy Thai sauce or the peanut buttery Malay, balanced with chewy thick noodles or crispy fried rice — this is Bào. “We appeal to people who know what they like. Here you can be vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, Atkins — anything.” Within the clutter-free space, under the inviting orb lights, Marsha and Michael have created a restaurant that is a true extension of their home. So open the door; you’re already invited.
From Noksapyeong Station, exit 2, walk down the street for two minutes until you come to a pedestrian underpass. Head down the stairs, through the tunnel, and exit on the left. At street level, you’ll see Bào across the street directly in front of you, next to Noxa Lounge. Look for the black awning.