We've been meaning to visit Wonderbao for years - we're resolutely pro-bun, and the enthusiastic reviews that pop up regularly on vego blogs (see below) have kept it on our radar. My job has recently shifted from Gertrude Street to the city and, although I miss my old favourites, one of the upsides has been the opportunity to scope out some city lunches. Wonderbao is hidden away down an arcade off A'Beckett street and it's easy to miss it if you're not paying attention (Sarah Cooks has a helpful map on her blog post).
The menu is pretty minimal, especially for vegos - there's a tofu gua bao ($4.90) and a mushroom bao ($2.70), plus a couple of sweet bao options ($2.50 each). I didn't have a good sense of how much I should order, so I was relieved to see that they've got a conveniently arranged veggie pack - for $9.50 you get the tofu gua bao and mushroom bao for lunch and the taro bao for dessert.
The tofu is the clear stand-out - a cube of fried silky tofu, with coriander, sweet soy sauce and pickled mustard, folded into a pillowy steamed bun. The mushroom bun isn't bad either - a puffy ball of dough, wrapped around a mixed filling of shitake mushrooms, tofu and veggies. The filling itself isn't popping with flavour, but the sriracha and soy sauce on the table mean you can add a bit of punch as required. The final offering was dessert - a bun stuffed with a smooth, starchy taro-based filling that is a bit sweet and a bit savoury, but mostly pretty bland. I was tempted to add some sriracha just to see if it would make this more memorable, but I resisted. I'm not generally a big fan of taro-based desserts though, so I'm probably not the ideal reviewer of this dish.
Wonderbao is popular - I arrived bang on 12 and managed to score a seat at the window, but there was a queue streaming out the door by 12:15 that showed no signs of disappearing while I was working my way through lunch. The hype is interesting - Wonderbao offer decent value food, with an emphasis on doing one thing and doing it well - but the food itself isn't life-changing, and I doubt I'd be willing to queue up for 20 minutes to grab a seat. Still - on a proper spring day, I can easily imagine grabbing a couple of the tofu gua bao and eating them in the sunshine somewhere else.
Wonderbao might just be the most blogged-about place we've reviewed. Vegos The Good Hearted, Nouveau Potato, Veganopolous, The Chocoholic Philosopher, easy as vegan pie and vegawesome are fans, while The Simple Eater wasn't so impressed.
The non-veg blog scene is full of praise - with positive reviews from Burn My Mouth Blog, The World Loves Melbourne, Miss.Neverfull, Food & Travel, But Mostly Food, Mango Macarons (two, three), Easy Food Hacks, Two Clowns Tripping, Klaus & Fritz, Sarah Cooks, Burp!Appetit, Olive Sundays, Never Too Sweet, The Chronicles of Ms I-Hua, The Hungry Traveller, Gourmet Chick, Petit Miamx, confessions of a little piggy, The Chommery, Seeking Victory, Addicted to the Sweet Life, Juganauts Foodie Thoughts, Skinny Glutton, Curiously Celeste, Good Food, Good Mood, The Hangry Bitch, Carly Findlay, Momo & Coco, Simon Food Favourites, Temasek, Ministry of Gluttony, Let's Get Fat Together, Who Told You That?, Food and Tea Traveller, Gastrology, Let Me Feed You Melbourne, Yellow Eggs, Eat.Play.Shop, foodie about town, Jenny Chews, Rumbly in my Tumbly, Foodscrazy, Eat and Be Merry, For Tomorrow We Die(t) (twice), Asian Restaurants in Melbourne, Gastronomic Gems, Yum Yum, egg tarts and apple pie, Plus Ate Six, The Very, Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Epicurean of Southbank, Poor Student Eats/Drinks Melbourne, Food Made With Love, The Hunger Pangs, I came, I saw, I ate, Kaffiekoo, New International Students, The Escort and the Thief, Petit Fours, The Owl's Nest, The Bake-a-Nista, My First Foray, Simple Palates, Seriously, Ultimate Foodie Getaway, Saving, Dining and Travelling, I Talk Too Much My Mouth Hurts, Panda & Cakes, tickle my tastebuds, Couture Foodie, A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words, Lots of Cravings, Snow Crab Nebula, Food Porn Journal, Good Food, Good Karma, A Hedonist's Love, The Adventures of Miss Piggy, Jotting Down my Foodsteps, Wandering Mint, Ellie's Belly Adventures, The Food Society (twice), A Chronicle of Gastronomy, Gluttony Fair, Go to Bread, Not Bed, Crystal Noir, Caramel Love, Live To Eat, Farkthat'snotbad, 50 First Dates, Food is Our Religion, Spoonfuls of Wanderlust, libertine eats, ps: i heart you, I Heart Good Food, Little Miss Peckish, Sweet and Sour Fork, Peach Water, Ichigo Shortcake, Look, See, Food, A Food Trail, Wynne Ma, FoodVixen, Charles Jedidiah, Lunchosaurus and iFat - Food Chronicles and just a few less impressed posts at Curious Charlie, Such Good Life, Pigging Out Around the World and secretemple.
Shop 4/19-37 A'Beckett St, Melbourne CBD
menu 1, menu 2
Accessibility: Wonderbao has a flat entryway into a very small interior. There are a few stools for people eating in, but it's mostly about takeaway. You order from a medium counter. I didn't visit the toilets.