“I’ve never seen it before,” says chef Dien Nguyen. “There’s nothing in Dallas like it.”
Still, it feels familiar. Whether it’s one of the first burger baos or not, it’s a powerful flashback of a dish. Nguyen takes the steamed-cloud bun and stuffs it with a brisket and Angus beef blend burger (80 percent beef, 20 percent fat), hitting it with seasoning before it’s formed, simply, with salt, pepper and a magically light dust of cayenne pepper. It’s griddled to adorn it with crust, and American cheese melts over everything like a good fall jacket.
Shreds of crunchy lettuce and iconic pickles — the same ones you can find at the grocery store — decorate the burger. What makes it: the sauce, a half-and-half blend of Kewpie mayonnaise and good, ol’ fashioned American mayonnaise meets a brittle, salty in-house bacon crumble. Chef Nguyen cures the pork belly at Sumo Shack and pulverizes it into adult Baco’s.
Remember Baco’s? Baco’s were processed bits of facon (fake bacon) that you kept in an airtight jar in the fridge, and they’d never go bad. Mom used to sprinkle them over salads, and if you’re like me, over mac and damn cheese.
So, the question: Was Baco’s the inspiration for this crispy bacon crumble recipe?
“That’s basically what we do," Nguyen says. “It kind of brings back a little bit of childhood.”
The crumble of bacon, when it finds that slightly sweet (from the Kewpie mayonnaise) sauce will take you back to the first Whataburger bacon with cheese you ever had. With a soft, steamed bun — dropped in front of you for a price that’s less than a Starbucks Unicorn Frappucino — Sumo Shack's burger bao is thrilling eating. On two visits, my patty is cooked spot-on medium rare, and the juices run into the crunchy lettuce and pickle. American cheese is, truly, forever a dose of joy. I admit to devouring it so quickly that I may or may not have swallowed part of the paper.
“I’ve been getting a lot of mixed reviews about it," Nguyen says. "A lot of people are saying it’s too fusion. But the whole inspiration behind the menu, including the burger, is that I wanted to introduce the bao with ingredients that people were familiar with. I just wanted to do something fun.”
Put a pin in the fusion irritation for a minute. Shouldn’t we celebrate a dish that may be a completely new kind of Dallas "sandwich" (it’s a little bit bigger than the size of a hearty slider)? Actually, let’s just put the stake in the ground now: We have one of the best burger baos in Texas.
Sumo Shack, 5629 SMU Blvd.