Mean Bao stuffs steamed buns with fillings like chicken.
The de facto OCAD cafeteria - the food court on the first floor of the Village by the Grange condo complex - is home to several take-aways worthy of note, Manpuku noodle house and Karine's vegan-friendly café to name but two. Mean Bao (275 Dundas West, at St. Patrick, 416-850-5616, @MeanBaoToronto, rating: NNN) is the latest entry, a cheap 'n' cheerful spot that takes the Banh Mi Boys' template and spins it off into something new.
Though they're not as deftly executed as the Boys' bao, Mean's doughy Chinese steamed buns arrive stuffed with the likes of pulled pork in smoky barbecue sauce, deep-fried tofu in peanut sauce and curried calamari ($3.20/$6 for two). All come garnished à la BMB with threads of pickled carrot, red pepper, cucumber, the odd coriander leaf and the essential squirt of Sriracha hot sauce.
There are also bowls of trendy quinoa topped with crunchy stir-fried broccoli, cauliflower and Japanese eggplant in a spicy Kung Pao-style sauce ($6). They also come with two of the saddest deep-fried frozen spring rolls we've ever encountered, all roll, minimal spring and the size of your pinky. The other dim sum on the menu are a different story.
Unlike almost anywhere else downtown, Mean Bao's har gow are made from scratch, their four thin translucent wrappers bursting with al dente shrimp. Dusted with flying fish roe, a quartet of shui mai recall juicy Italian meatballs, while delicate shrimp cakes wouldn't be out of place on a tray of cocktail canapés (all $3.80/$7.20 for two orders). Sure, they're almost twice the price of those served at Dim Sum King or Rol San, but they're more than three times as tasty.
Come for the steamed bao but stay for the Mean dim sum.