There are nights when you just want a place to chill out and have fun, when food is necessary but drinks are not, when dinner prep and the clean up is out of the question. But there are also nights when I’m just not in the mood for our usual CBD spots.
Three weeknights ago I caught wind of a pop-up at Coco’s Cantina on K’ Road while the Coco’s team is away in Italy. Food FOMO hit. I knew I had no reason to miss this.
A Duo of Duos
Viva La Revolution (Long Live the Revolution) was a collaboration between Street Food Collective mainstays Judge Bao and The Pie Piper. The duos stuck with their guns and went for modern Chinese with an American twist. It was a no-brainer that The Pie Piper took care of dessert, leaving the savoury dishes in the hands of the Judge Bao team.
My first experience with Judge Bao was at Street Eats 2015 where I got to try their Black Betty and Sloppy Po Bao. I thought the concept was brilliant, completely original, and the service genuine. I was immediately hit with food hungover.
Judge Bao was founded by ‘Sauce boss’ Jamie and his partner ‘Bun hun’ Debbie. Jamie is no newbie in the food scene having 16 years of experience in the industry under his belt. He also worked with Al Brown and Kyle Street of Depot and Federal Deli fame. While the head chef labours in the kitchen, Debbie is out and about being a front-of-house, marketer, and all-around multi-tasker. She even drew their mascot ‘Pew Pew.’ The Pie Piper, on the other hand, is a mother and daughter team who aim to introduce Kiwis to American style sweet pies.
Viva La Revolution menu
Complimentary steam buns
The meal started with complimentary steam buns with pickles at the side. They served us a plain steamed bun and a black sesame steamed bun.
Cheese Grits: Tofu cheese, corn, jasmine rice, gai choy, olive leaf.
My fiancé was hesitant on ordering the Cheese Grits as he doesn’t like tofu. I, on the other hand, love tofu and am a congee fan so I insisted. This was the dish that surprised me the most. At first bite I thought the flavours were a bit off, that an ingredient stood out and overpowered everything else. As I dug into it, however, the flavours converged and the dish made more sense. The fact that my fiancé liked this dish is probably enough proof that it was good.
Dirty Bird: Guangzhou fried drums, fugu, douban mayo, gau choy.
The Dirty Bird came next – an ode to American paper bag chicken and Guangzhou street chicken. The chicken was moist inside but is nicely crispy on the outside. The breading was on the salty side but this was balanced by the tanginess of the douban mayo.
Meatloaf: Beef brisket and lap cheong loaf, lotus, Sichuan pepper, ketchup.
Then came arguably the highlight of our meal. The Meatloaf felt like a very well though out dish. The flavours were balanced – the umami from the beef brisket and lap cheong (Chinese sausage) was well complemented by the sweetness of the ketchup (which was slightly spicy), with the lotus serving as the crunchy element. They weren’t kidding when they listed this under the ‘Big Plates,’ I was so glad we didn’t order sides.
I am seriously hoping they incorporate this in a bao somebody. Although, I see that they have just recently added a new bao to their menu called ‘Rick James‘ which is brisket mince in black bean sauce, fried in marrow, finished with lotus fries and mustard greens.
Pie Piper’s Lychee Coconut Cream Pie
I checked out the menu before we visited and knew I wasn’t leaving without trying The Pie Piper’s Lychee Coconut Cream Pie. Debbie advised us not to add affogato as it would overpower the pie and she was right. The flavours were so subtle that no one element overpowered another. It tasted so light and fresh which made it the perfect palate cleanser. My only regret is that I didn’t order a whole pie for takeaway.
Looking back on this meal I had two weeks ago, it just dawned on me how apt the name for the pop-up was. So many Auckland restaurants have followed the fusion model. I can’t count how many Asian fusion restaurants I have and haven’t tried. A few however have tried to push boundaries in revolutionising cuisine, e.g. Nanam. Judge Bao has aimed to revolutionise the humble bao from the get go and their early success made them one to look out for.
Long live the revolution.