Introducing BAO HOUSE – no, not the German architectural movement (Bauhaus, same pronunciation but different spelling) and no, not the Opposite House’s gourmet food truck serving fusion baozi and mantou sandwiches (which was turned this past June into a dog-friendly pop-up called Summer Howl), the Bao House I’m talking about is the new little Japanese restaurant serving omakase-style sushi in an intimate, personable space.
Opened in the Topwin Centre next to Beyond Yakitori on the 3rd floor, Bao House is an unassuming looking place from the outside. Don’t let that fool you though, as what happens inside is pretty special!
Entrance to Bao House on the 3rd Floor of Topwin Center, Sanlitun
The Talented Mr. Bao Himself
Mr. Alan Bao, the owner and head chef, trained for many years at Izakaya 桥厂居酒屋 and then worked as the head chef for 然寿司 Zen Sushi’s second branch near the new BTV, and has finally branched out to open his own domain.
The interior is also nothing groundbreaking, a simple sushi bar and a few private rooms are available, but this is all geared towards having you focus on the thoughtfully selected and meticulously prepared food!
Not for picky eaters, this place is designed for foodies who appreciate Japanese cuisine and respect this omakase style of entrusting the head chef to serve you what he deems best that day. As this is the Chef’s choice, it changes daily depending on what he can get hold of so don’t expect an a la carte menu and best not to bring fussy eating friends.
Drinks wise, diners have more control in terms of what you can order. Bao has you covered with a great selection of sake, Japanese beer and other liquor. If you want something unique, try their sparkling sake and we also recommend the Yuzu Citrus Wine (RMB 660 per 720ml).
Drinks ordered, then began the onslaught of the omakase dishes. Be warned, there are a lot of courses! That being said, you can also see that they are all bites-sized so you will make your way through them all quicker than you expect.
First up were a series of starters to ease us into the swing of things. The monkfish liver was a standout dish for me here and the combination of torched Gouda cheese and blowfish jerky is pure genius. I wouldn’t call this fusion, but there is some real creativity that shines through these surprisingly tasty little starter bites.
Hamachi & Mangosteen
Monkfish Liver in Sweet Sauce and a Dab of Fresh Wasabi
Iberico Ham Sliced Right from the Leg
(I should note that this was just something he happened to have – a gift from a friend – not really a part of the Omakase)
Torched Gouda Cheese & Dried Blowfish Jerky
Steamed Crab Legs with House Dip
This was pre-cut so all the hard work was already done for you!
Next came the sashimi and with them the theatre of watching 宝师傅 carve the fish beautifully in front of our eyes. Also note, the ponzu sauce is really moreish and it is easy to scoff down a large portion of seaweed and radish when dipping them indiscriminately! Bao-san also explains which sashimi should be eaten as served or which to dip in which sauce (soy or ponzu) so you know exactly what to do. While I can’t honestly say that I can distinguish between all the sashimi we were served, stand-outs were the scallop sashimi with lime (tasted like a tequila shot!), the plump amaebi (raw sweet shrimp), and fatty tuna (always a winner).
Bao-san Simultaneously Prepares Sashimi Plates for Private Dining Room Guests
Following this, we hit the Izakaya dishes. Roasted meats with the tender Wagyu being a real highlight especially alongside a little roll of arugula in a gorgeous dressing. The chawanmushi (steamed egg custard with mushroom stock) is purely highlighting the natural flavors with no additional salt or seasoning of any kind. So subtle, yet beautifully done.
Wagyu & Arugula Salad Roll
Cod with Fish Skin
Abalone with Bamboo
Up next come the Nigiri. Individual “sushi” that are assembled in front of you. If you’ve ever watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi, this is the part of the evening that really gives the ‘wow’ factor. Again, the ikura with lime has an uncanny resemblance to a tequila shot and the unagi was really spectacular. The bowl that looks like a poké bowl has chopped tuna, tobiko, crab guts, and fresh wasabi for a beautiful blend of textures and flavors. Better than any poké bowl in Beijing, but a baby version of course!
Finally, finishing up was a dish that was caught us all by surprise. Christened the ”Foie Gras taco” by one of our dinner party (who knows a thing or two about tacos), it is Foie Gras with Rice and a sticky, sweet sauce drizzled all over and then wrapped in a nori “taco shell”. I could have had a whole meal of just that, and that would be the definition of gluttony.
The Foie Gras Taco
A miso soup served as the last savoury dish before the dessert completed our omakase experience – marinated peaches with finely shaved ice. Bao-san even shaves his ice like he does his sashimi! Amazing!
Bao is a character and jovially doles out courses from his central command station at the heart of the restaurant. If you go, I’d highly recommend you sit yourself down and enjoy the show. It’s really refreshing to see someone enjoying their work and so deeply engaged with the task at hand.
This is a worthy omakase experience, but make sure you book as seating is limited. Aside from the sushi bar seating (12 seats available, which I’d want to book for any reservation I make), there are 2 private rooms that seat up to 4 pax and 1 private room that seats up to 8 pax. Bao House was completely full when we went on a Thursday night from 7pm until 9pm so make sure you book your seats well in advance!
Bao House 宝屋 Contact Details:
- Address: 3rd Floor of Topwin Center (next to Beyond Yakitori and across from Taiwanese Hot Pot restaurant)
- 地址：三里屯南路 通盈中心 三层 宝屋
- Tel: 10 5972 4070
- Omakase Price: RMB 688 or RMB 1000
- Closed on Mondays, reservations highly recommended as seating is limited!
Kristen Lum has an accomplished background in PR, communications and events in China. Born and raised in California, Kristen has been based in Beijing since 2006 and is founder of the lifestyle blog called LumDimSum, covering mostly restaurant news and reviews alongside upcoming events around town that relate to Beijing’s muti-faceted, quickly-developing creative industries like art, music, film, health and fitness, fashion, nightlife, charity events, and travel tips.