Scotsman Review
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  • Ambience - It's important that a restaurant is inviting. We rate the decor, comfort and atmosphere.
  • Drink - Is the wine or cocktail list as exciting as the food, or does it fall short? Same goes for soft drinks. 
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May 28, 2021

Restaurant Review: Sister Bao, Edinburgh

This street food restaurant specialises in Chinese steamed buns, finds Gaby Soutar.

Another restaurant review with my sister and the sprogs in tow.

By the time I meet them, they’ve bought the entire window display of the Cats Protection shop next door to this new venue.

Their pocket money spoils include a wallet with a Yorkshire terrier on it, butterfly-covered shoes in the wrong size - “I NEED them” - and another teddy bear to take home and add to the soft toy slag heap of doom, which resembles a Mike Kelley sculpture.

They had to come with me for two reasons - a) it’s cheap and b) the ten year old is obsessed with dumplings, which are Sister Bao’s speciality.

We used to like another place in Edinburgh, famous for its dim sum, until she went feral (aged about three) and insisted on eating hers under the table.

When she wouldn’t come out, we got a telling off from the waitress and were too scared to ever go back.

As it’s always yum cha o’clock somewhere in the world, we head here for lunch.

It’s quite small inside this place, which calls itself “the first dedicated bao restaurant in Scotland”, with canteen-style seating at the rear and a high-stooled bar area at the front.

We sat right at the back, beside a blown-up photograph of a stratocumulus-sized bao.

The menu is pretty extensive. We were tempted by the Special Combos, which included Sweet Lover Bun, Happy Together and Spicy Together, but ended up going for our own random megamix, which we’ll call Jolly Piggies United.

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The first option to hit our table was the honey roast pork bao (£1.60), which was candy floss fluffy on the outside, with a heart of diced pork and carrot.

It was less jammy and saucy than other versions that I’ve had, and more meaty.

We diced it into bits, and everyone was happy with their section of puffball.

We also tried the shrimp with cabbage bun (£1.50), which featured plenty of seafood, but also a fungi flavour, with perhaps wood ear mushroom in the mix. Bao wow.

The next arrival was wonton soup noodles (£8.50) and dumpling soup noodles (£8.80).

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The small people were really into the wonton version, which had an opaque, savoury and stocky sauce, as well as a massive contingent of soft skinny noodles and about seven wonton, with sausage-y pork meat in diaphanous and wrinkly dough wrappers.

It was soul food, and we dredged the depths, leaving trails of soup and the occasional noodle across the table.

Their dumpling soup noodles (£8.80) were more grown-up, with a “sour broth” that was made with chicken stock and Chinese black vinegar, as well as more of those wonton, all sprinkled with sesame seeds, which were suspended on the mahogany-coloured surface

We’d gone a bit heavy on the pork options, by accident, or subconscious design.

Anyway, a set of 10 (£8) fried pork dumplings arrived.

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We definitely ordered these potstickers, I remember that, but I think my eldest niece engineered it through some kind of mind control. I am a suggestible auntie.

They vanished fast, dipped in the vinegar and soy sauce on the side.

The next option was lamb based, with xiao long buns (£6 for six pieces).

These soup buns had hole-in-the-top dough wrappers, which were draped over their brothy and juicy centres like crinolines.

Our final number was a single bun, the beef pie (£3) - a suet-y shortcrust pasty, stuffed with mince.

It was rather neglected, since we’d dumpling-ed, noodled and souped ourselves into oblivion.

As well as special coffees, like the bitter mocha latte, they do sweet buns here too, like pumpkin and coconut or red bean, but we were beyond that.

It’s a bit like when pizza restaurants have sweet calzones as dessert. You can have too much of a good thing.

The consensus is that we love it here. It’s not fancy inside, with a wobbly table and canteen-style seating, and you could easily walk past their steamed up window without paying it much attention.

However, our table of two adults, two kids and a baby (with soup and dumplings remnants plastered all over his face), were extremely well fed for under £40.

Although we had the urge, nobody clambered under the table to eat their lunch, so I’m sure they’ll have us back.

Sister Bao

32 South Clerk Street, Edinburgh, 0131 667 2984

How much? Lunch for two adults, two children and a baby, £37.40

Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.
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