Comfort food comes in many forms — as many as there are countries and cultures. In the case of Mongolia, it is likely to look a lot like mutton cooked in a steaming hot pot together with boiled potatoes, cabbage, tofu, shiitake mushrooms and black cloud-ear fungus. That is the kind of hearty sustenance you find at Bao.
This cheerful little hole-in-the-wall, which opened last June in the back streets of Shinbashi, serves the cuisine of China’s Inner Mongolia region, the birthplace of both the owner and her chef. As well as stir-fries and plates of boiled meat both on and off the bone, they offer tasty shaomai (steamed dumplings), excellent gyōza (boiled dumplings) in red chili soup and a punchy Sichuan-style mapo doufu (tofu with spicy ground meat) — but all made with lamb in place of pork.
With its bright red walls, mismatched chairs and comfortable clutter, Bao has a relaxed feel that is only enhanced by the constant soundtrack of 1960s and ’70s U.S. soul music. Not surprisingly, it has already developed a strong following and its 10 seats and tatami mat-style back room are full most evenings. Reservations are highly recommended.