"We legit play this song in the gym," says my dining companion. We're at Super Bao in Dickson and the soundtrack runs like the Spotify playlist he makes me listen to in the car. Inappropriate lyrics, questionable narratives, but at the same time, banging tunes. You can't say banging, mum, he tells me. How embarrassing.
I've been wanting to take this growing lump of a lad with me on a review for a while. He likes to eat. I like his company. What more do you need to make a night of it?
He'd feel out of place somewhere too fancy but Super Bao finds this nice balance between restaurant and takeaway. A colourful mural of Asian warriors adorns a long wall, the decor is simple, the seating a mix of smaller tables with chairs and bigger ones with bench seating for larger groups, there's a table tucked in an alcove too which would be a good spot.
Super Bao has only been open since April, but Canberrans have long enjoyed their food at different markets and pop ups they've been doing around the place. It seems tonight that fans are willing to come to Dickson as the place is full and turning people away by 7.30pm. There are young families in early, groups of teenagers, millennials on date night, older couples, all in search of a good feed.
We start with a selection of bao ($7.50 each), slow-braised pork belly with pickles, coriander and crushed peanuts; a Shanghai duck, tender breast meat with finely sliced carrots, spring onions and a orange sauce that's not too sweet; and a sweet chilli prawn with a seaweed salad ($8). It's a nice starting point, and the pork belly is our favourite, tender and luscious. The prawn choice is disappointing, the prawn itself tastes a little watery and the sweet chilli sauce is cloying.
Next we get the popcorn chicken ($12). Think of every chicken nugget you've ever had, and then forgot about it. This is next level guilty pleasure. Each little piece well crumbed, tender and spicy, offset by a mayonnaise dipping sauce. The plate is piled high and we notice they're going down a treat with the youngest of customers as well.
The bao-gers, don't you love that fusion, come in chicken ($10) and beef ($11) options. We go for the buttermilk marinated chicken thigh which is served with cabbage, spring onion and a saffron aioli which is a weird colour of yellow but creamy and delicious. It's a mouthful and not the most delicate thing to eat - remember that if you're on date night.
I'm keen to try something not in a bun and for me the wontons ($7) are close to the dish of the night. With a pork, basa fillet and coriander filling, served with the house spicy vinegar, they're a refreshing change from all the buns. There's a good amount of filling and there's little chew to them, the wrappers cooked to perfection.
The lobster spring rolls ($7) are also a nice change. Thick cigars filled with plenty of lobster meat, mushrooms, and somewhat bizarrely I think when ordering, mozzarella cheese. But then as I'm eating them I'm thinking lobster mornay and it all makes sense. They're rich and the pastry is golden. You just couldn't eat too many.
Indeed one of the hardest things about places such as Super Bao is all the choices on the menu. Someone is slurping on a big bowl of noodles, they look good. I wonder what the soft shell crab is like, plenty of vegetarian options. If I was in a group should we order the whole sticky fried Szechuan pepper infused chicken and just plonk it in the middle of the table?
The boy's just about beaten. He's enjoyed a night of trying some new flavours, some new things. But there's something on the menu that catches his eye. An Oreo ice cream bao and he's been good fun so dessert is a reward.
These are a bit of fun, the bun is more like a doughnut in texture and flavour, with a good scoop of Oreo infused ice cream if we're being posh, set atop some swirls of caramel sauce on the plate. The young kids at the next table stare in awe and their mother orders them one too.
But don't think Super Bao is just for kids. There's a serious drinks list with a selection of wines, beers and spirits. Cocktails are a thing here too I'm told, you can order by the carafe or the glass. There's a small selection of sake too.
The boy's driven over tonight on his L plates - it only seems like yesterday that he was as small as the boys on the next table - so we go the mocktail carafe option. Our choice of strawberry, rosemary and blueberry goes down a treat. It's refreshing and I'm keen to replicate once summer rolls around.
And then he says "this would be really nice with vodka in it", and I realise how much my boy has grown up.
Super Bao was a great choice for our date. A fun, vibrant venue, doing what they do well and perhaps a little more. I'd say it was banging, but I'm not allowed to.
Address: Unit 240/6 Cape Street, Dickson
Owner: Paul Xu
Chef: Dean Huang
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday, lunch, noon to 2.30pm, dinner 5.30-9pm. Friday to Saturday, noon to 10pm. Sunday noon to 9pm.
Wheelchair access: Yes
Vegetarian: Plenty of options
Noise: Noisy but conversation is easy.