The first bao to land in front of me is the Angry Bird. The chicken has been brined in soy sauce, peppercorns, salt, sugar and vinegar, tossed in follow-up marinade, then given a coat of panko and flash-fried. Dill pickles, the ones that like to sit in your fridge for months, surround the chicken under molten American cheese. One bite in and it's obvious that chef Dien Nguyen has got something here.
Sumo Shack, a sister restaurant to Lowest Greenville's Wabi House, opened this week on SMU Boulevard in the space that previously held the Banh Shop, and there’s reason to be feel a jolt of food excitement. Late-night bao with hot fried chicken, crispy cod, a Philly cheesesteak nod and a burger? College student drunk food has evolved, and this drunk food is available until 4 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
“I was tired of going to eat at Whataburger,” Nguyen says with a laugh.
Inventive fare aside, there are also sake juice boxes, sake-ritas with muddled fruit and fast bites that taste unlike anything on the block. SMU is going to dig this new spot.
The Tokyo Dog is made with house-made, Wagyu-blend beef sausage with a neat pile of bonito flakes, scallion, caramelized onion and nori, which stirs up an aroma of the sea. The Angry Bird Bao is crispy and delicious with a Chick-Fil-A flavor profile that beats anything Chick-Fil-A does.
Has there ever been a burger bao in Dallas? This has got to be the first one, and novelty bun aside, it's excellent. A scatter of crunchy bacon bits on top feels like an homage to Baco’s, and it's nostalgic and thrilling at the same time.
Of course, there’s ramen, matcha ice cream in a deep fried bun drizzled with condensed milk, and corndogs. There’s also takoyaki, deep fried balls with dashes of octopus inside. Those are drizzled with the melted American cheese, bonito and nori.
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“I traveled a lot, and every city has a their signature bao,” Nguyen says. Whether or not this will become Dallas' signature bao is yet to be seen, but there's potential in Sumo Shack.
Nguyen is playing with a secret, off-menu roster of bao that gives even more incentive to hit this place up more than once. For now, we're just happy to have inventive bao and ramen that we can scarf down at 3 a.m.
Sumo Shack, 5629 SMU Blvd.