Baked Cha Shao Bao -- Blue Sky vs. You's
- Gary Soup May 19, 2007 07:28 PM
Chandavkl's recent post about his baked cha sho bao ecstasy at Blue Sky on Powell nagged at me until I went there to check it out myself. I wasn't exactly stunned (maybe mine wasn't as fresh as his), so I decided to do a side-by-side comparison with my (and Dave's former) go-to, You's on Broadway.
The bottom line on the comparison was that there really wasn't a lot to distinguish the two other than size and price. As can be seen in the pics below, the Blue Sky version (on the left in both pictures) is considerably smaller. This can be seen better in the second picture; it had become a bit deflated while carrying it around in my bag for a while. BS also had a slightly lower meat-to-bun ratio. I didn't have a scale around, but it appeared that the You's bun was at least 50 percent heavier; at 85 cents per bao, it was also almost 50 percent more expensive than Blue Sky's (60 centesw).
Both baos had a very similar filling, small thin slices of bbq pork is a sweetish, corn-starchy sauce (pretty much a standard recipe). As Chandavkl noted, the Blue Sky version had a fluffier, yeastier wrapper, while the You's version slightly more cake-y with a little more "crumb." The BS version also had a shinier glaze.
I guess it comes down to where you happen to be, or how you want to divide up the booty, since you can get three of one for about the same price as two of the other.
I would choose Cafe Bakery's (Noriega) or Gourmet Dim Sum's (Clement) over either, except these tow happen to be in my neighborhood.
Blue Sky is at 1504 Powell, You's at 675 Broadway.
Cafe Bakery & Restaurant certainly makes one of the better buns, too. But the parking in the area--any secrets to finding a parking space in that neighborhood? I think the thing that distinguishes Blue Sky's bun is that crispy top--but you only get that sensation if you eat one that is freshly baked. I ended up buying six buns, but only ate one truly fresh. I ate the others later, by which time the top had lost its snap.
Cafe Bakery hands down is the best. Not only do they give you more meat filling, the filling doesn't have a lot of the chunks of fat in it that you find in all the others. The other nice thing about Cafe is that if you want to see a to have a jaw dropping marvel, turn North off Noriega onto 20th. About three houses down on the right is this house the frontyard of which that has been decorated in all kinds of kitschy plastic doo dads and other bizaare items. The yard has every square inch including items hanging from lines covering the frontyard at 6 ft off the ground.
You've never seen a house like this anywhere else.
Odd, I thought the endearing thing about Cafe Bakery's baked cha shao bao was that it gives you a little "kou gan" or mouthfeel through fat, gristle, and some crunchy meat bits, so you know you are really getting some meat and not some bland, sweetish amalgam that characterizes a lot of other CSB. It reminds me a bit of the baked cha shao bao at Woey Loy Goey that used to keep me alive in my salad days (at 10 cents per bao) long before it became New Woey Loy Goey.
re: Gary Soup
I went way out of my way several months ago to try the CSB at Cafe Bakery. The one I got was virtually all gristle pieces!!! Tough luck I guess - but I won't be going back.
My favorite is You's on Broadway - but only when they're really fresh and hot. Occasionally I'll get one that tastes like it's been sitting for hours - not so good then.
Didn't like this one. The flavor of the pork filling was pretty good, but it was at least 1/3 fat. Amazing amount of chunks of fat and gristle, I mean, a couple pieces of pure fat in each mouthful. All three bao were like that. So, if you like extra fat, this one's for you. I'm not adverse to fat and gristle, but this was way too much.
Here's the facade of the storefront.
re: Melanie Wong
Another problem is that the "difference maker" in my original post was the thin and crispy top to the bun. But I went back this week and the second time while you could see the thin layer on top, it wasn't crispy. Rather, it tasted like the ones I reheated when I got home. So unless you get there right when it comes out of the oven, you're only going to get a good, not great bun.