Chairman Bao, The Chairman…some reason, I remembered it being called Chairman Bao when it first started roaming the streets of SF. I’m sure many of you have heard that The Chairman truck have a brick and mortar location now in the TL (Tenderloin). Years ago, I spotted The Chairman truck constantly parked outside of a location on Larkin St. I figured they must use a kitchen there because I saw people going in and out of it into the truck. The windows were all covered up. Then last year, I saw a location under construction with the iconic panda image. Since then every time I passed by on Larkin, I always checked to see if they were opened for business. Finally in April, I saw people posting their soft opening on Instagram. I was eagerly awaiting for them to officially open their opens for business, and it felt like it took a year!
We ordered several of the steamed baos (buns), the noodle salad bowl, and kennebec potato fries.
Chairman Noodle Salad. It had purple potato noodles, marinated mushrooms, chili pickled burdock & hijiki seaweed, daikon sprout, and toasted sesame puree. We got it with the miso cured tofu. It was very yummy, and the toasted sesame puree blends everything together.
Kennebec Potato Fries. It was sprinkled with nori and came with assorted sauces. From what I could taste, they sauces were honey mustard, Sriracha mayo, and some type of Worcestershire sauce concoction. My sister thinks it was a mixture of hoisin and Worcestershire sauce. I wasn’t too sure because it didn’t have the same salty and sweetness that’s associated to hoisin sauce. Darn! Now, I wished I asked the staff.
I was a bit underwhelmed by the fries and sauces. I wished the fries had more spices or seasoning – even if it was furiakake. None of the sauces stood out to me. I was just expecting more since Chef Hiroo Nagahara creates such a brilliant combinations for the baos. He thinks about different combinations of flavors and texture for each one of them giving each a unique characteristics that makes you want to try it all like we, more like I, did.
Crispy Tempeh – roasted carrot puree, chili pickled burdock, and hijiki seaweed
Tender Pork Belly – red miso glaze, turmeric pickled daikon, and green shiso
Coca-Cola Braised Pork – savoy cabbage, preserved mustard seeds, and garlic mayo
Spicy Chicken – toasted sesame puree, panchan pickled carrots & cucumber, and cilantro
Miso Cured Tofu – tofu, mayo, and baby choy-sum
Time after time, the pork belly still remains my favorite. This is the first time I got actually tried the vegetarian options. To my surprise, they were incredibly delicious! The pork belly and tofu were my favorites of the night. The others were good too, but those two stood out the most.
I usually get the steam baos because I like small appetizer size food that I can eat several of and try a variety. The baked baos are huge, so I only can eat one which means one type of protein variety = boring! Also, I’m not a huge fan of the baked bao sandwich. I appreciate the soft pillowy steam baos that you can sink your teeth into, and its chewy texture. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a baked bbq pork bun from a dim sum place. Thinking about it, the reason is probably because is the baked bao is soft and sweet. The pickled veggies gets the bun wet and a bit soggy. Then steamed ones have a starchy exterior that protects it a little from getting soggy.
Here are some close-ups of the baos in the order listed above except the Coca-Cola Braised Pork. I was too busy eating it and forgot to take a pic 😣.
With more space, they are able to offer more than baos, which included the noodle salad bowl and fries we got. You can, also, get rice or salad bowls that you can customize, 2x fried chicken wings (with yuzu kosho, scallions, chili flakes), and variety of beverages.
So, I was too busy eating and engaging in conversation to take pics of the exterior and interior as I usually do. It’s a small place so seating is limited – counter sits only. Definitely not a place you would go with a big group, probably 2-4 people. People usually finish up their meal pretty quick, so you’ll most likely to grab a seat after ordering.
Btw, as I was looking at their website last night and this morning, they updated their website overnight! Before, it was www.thechairmantruck.com which only mentioned their truck. Now, it’s www.hailthechairman.com and features their truck and brick and mortar locations. Yes, I said “locations”. In my discoveries, I saw that they will be opening a location in L.A. soon.