For all its bars, breweries, apartments and galleries, the Arts District can be a tough neighborhood for finding quality late-night food. Thankfully, that gets a little easier starting this week, because unconventional bao shop Bao Hiroo is on the scene and it’s serving massive sandwiches, pillowy bao and fun, house-bottled cocktails until 2am.
It’s the latest from chef Hiroo Nagahara—formerly of the Chairman food truck in San Francisco and Charlie Trotter’s Bar Charlie in Vegas—and while he’s spent plenty of time in fine dining kitchens, Nagahara’s fist L.A. restaurant is all about comfort. Using his mother’s bao recipe, he’s energizing a corner of the Garey Building by filling the house-made steamed dough with the likes of katsu chicken with pickles, shiso aioli and cilantro; brisket (or Impossible vegan “beef”) with a coffee BBQ sauce, fennel kimchi and Fuji apple; and char siu lamb shoulder with mint, almonds and mustard greens. And if you think that sounds wild, just wait until you try the fried bao.
Nagahara’s more straightforward steamed bao gets formed into spheres and packed with a more traditional Japanese curry, but there’s also a shrimp creole variation that oozes cheddar when cracked open. Even more unusual are the gigantic sandwiches with buns made of—you guessed it—bao, stacked with melty cheese, pork belly and miso glaze, or ground pork and Chinese chives.
The menu is limited but lively, especially when it comes to drinks. All low-ABV, the cocktails come bottled and plastered with the image of Bao Hiroo’s mascot, the tanooki: a kind of Japanese raccoon dog, whose folklore is usually peppered with mischief.
That mischief and fun—coupled with Japanese tradition—is something Nagahara wants to spread throughout his space, so you’ll see the tanooki and other wildlife sporting leather jackets in the art hanging around the dining room; down the line, expect rotating artists’ work on display.
Take a peek inside Bao Hiroo, below, then drop by for a bao of your choosing—or just go with a friend and order them all. After all, you’ve got until 2am to eat your way through the menu.
Bao Hiroo is located at 905 E 2nd St, open Monday to Saturday from 11:30am to 2am.