Jade Culver tackles Korean spices from gochujang to siracha at the home of the meat donut
Despite it only being open for the past three months, KaiBaiBo has already drawn in quite the crowd, and has donned the title of ‘home of the meat donut’ something which made me ever more curious to give it a go.
Located on Slater Street, KaiBaiBo would be rather easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it, due to its tiny size and rather inconspicuous and simplistic décor, although that makes the atmosphere altogether cosier and more welcoming.
As someone who has successfully nibbled on a Carolina reaper wing in the past without dying, the warning fell on deaf ears...
As we arrive, we’re greeted by a solo waitress who offers up a table for two and lets us get settled before bringing over the drinks and food menus. Despite it’s small interior, KaiBaiBo is already bustling with activity from a table of six getting ready for an evening out, bottles of wine at the ready, to a couple enjoying a first date, and a solo reveller enjoying a rice bowl – impressive for a rather uneventful Tuesday evening.
The interior decoration is just as minimal inside as it is out, with plain white walls complimented by a brick feature wall, and some art pieces of KaiBaiBo’s signature tiger logo, but what it lacks in décor, it makes up for by its flavourful and colourful foods from Katsu chicken sandwiches to the beef bulgogi special.
With neither of us being heavy drinkers, we opt for a reasonably priced non-alcoholic Peroni (£3) and a can of Fanta (£2.50), and with a quick perusal of the 17-item menu, we order three small plates, and two big plates including the day’s special.
Service is quick and smooth, with food being delivered as and when it’s ready. The meat donut (£4.50) arrives first and is subsequently demolished as we wish we’d ordered just one more so it could be savoured all over again. The sweetness of the cinnamon sugar-coating blends incredibly well with the spicy siracha sauce and slow cooked beef filling, and when the donut was all but gone, the sauce was happily scooped up onto forks to eat as a standalone until the plate looked like it had been licked clean.
Next comes the chicken bao bun (£5.50) and the ‘Katsu Sando’ (£7.50). I savour and happily crunch away at the bao as my partner looks on dismayed at the coriander leaves sticking out, (he’s part of the population that believes coriander tastes like soap) although I believe the coriander soothes the slight tangy kick of the gochujang chilli sauce.
The Katsu Sando is merely a toasted white bread sandwich with panko crusted chicken topped with Katsu curry sauce, shaved cabbage and roast garlic mayonnaise. Despite its simplicity, it was a delightful treat amongst the mix of other dishes we had already tried, although I do believe it could have had a lot more sauce, as I got the half that didn’t appear to have much on it which made it difficult to finish.
As a fan, or so I thought, of all things spice, I eagerly awaited the arrival of the Korean fried chicken (£7.50) advertised as being served in a sticky garlic pepper sauce, with roast garlic aioli for dipping and the added extras of dill and shichimi. My partner-in-dine had warned me of the heat prior to ordering, but as someone who has successfully nibbled on a Carolina reaper wing in the past without dying, the warning fell on deaf ears. Alas, I made my way through two pieces of chicken before having to call it a day, despite the delicious crunch, my rather chapped lips just couldn’t handle the kick, although I hope to try again with the leftovers I took home.
The star of the meal is served last, the day’s special, a Bulgogi steak and egg hash (£12.50) cooked to absolute medium rare perfection, layered on top of a bowl of cheesy potato squares, which are smothered in red pepper, gochujang aioli and fresh pico di gallo. My dinner partner is equally impressed with the dish, as he cuts into the runny egg yolk allowing it to smother the bowl, I watch on in a somewhat hungry fashion as he finishes off the plate.
Dessert belly rumbling, I took a peak at the three-piece dessert menu, opting for the Hotteok (£5), a traditional Korean street food favourite of a pancake packed full of chocolate praline and crushed nuts, with some vanilla ice cream on the side. It was the perfect treat to end the evening, complete nutty goodness, but I preferably would have more ice cream to combat the slight stodginess of it all.
As we finished off our meal, the restaurant began to get rather busy, with customers being turned away if they didn't have a prior booking, this tiny establishment has a lot to offer, but a reservation is definitely recommended.
Forgoing the rice and ramen dishes on offer means that I will be making yet another reservation of my own, and I'm looking forward to visiting again, especially if they have more Bulgogi steak specials.
All scored reviews are unannounced, impartial, paid for by Confidentials and completely independent of any commercial relationship. They are a first-person account of one visit by one, knowledgeable restaurant reviewer and don't represent the company as a whole.
Venues are rated against the best examples of their type: 1-5: saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9: Netflix and chill, 10-11: if you’re passing, 12-13: good, 14-15: very good, 16-17: excellent, 18-19: pure class, 20: cooked by God him/herself.
Bulgogi steak special 8, chicken bao 7, katsu sando 6, meat donut 8, Korean fried chicken 6, Hotteok 5
Polite and quick, although the lone server could have done with a little more help
The simplistic and minimalist design didn't do much for the imagination, but the small space packed full made for interesting whispers of conversation