Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Chef Hiroo Nagahara’s passion for food started when his mother introduced him to the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, where they would regularly stroll the aisle selecting their favorite seafood from various vendors. That experience started Hiroo on a journey to understand the rich nuances of different ingredients and how they work together to become something great. Armed with this creative zeal, a pedigreed resume and his mother’s cherished recipes for stuffed bao, Chef Nagahara opened Bao Hiroo in downtown L.A.’s Arts District on June 6.
Bao Hiroo’s finely tuned menu will offer a focused selection of bao categorized by Steamed, Stuffed & Fried, Bao Sandwich and Sweet Bao—all hand-crafted. Steamed Bao include items like the Beef Brisket stuffed with coffee bbq, fuji apple, and fennel kimchi; and the Char Siu Lamb with marcona almonds, mustard greens, and mint. The Stuffed & Fried baos are flavor bombs, like the Creole Shrimp with shrimp brandade, cheddar, shiso tartar sauce, and citrus and the Japanese Curry bao filled with fried tofu, fingerling potatoes, and seasonal vegetables, coated in panko and fried. The Spicy Pig is a Bao Sandwich made with ground pork, pork shouder, black pepper and chinese chives stuffed between two charcoal bao. The Sweet Baos play on childhood favorites like Chef Nagahara’s guilty pleasure—Oreos. The “Oreo” Cookie Bao is filled with Guittard chocolate and Tahitian vanilla, and sprinkled with sea salt. Not Bao items round out the offerings with Togarashi Fries, salads and veggies. Craft Beer, wine and low-proof bottled cocktails will be served, with the restaurant anticipating an expanded liquor license and full cocktail program soon after opening.
After a few years away, Chef Nagahara is excited to be back in Los Angeles as he feels a deep connection to the melting pot of cultures and dynamic food scene that L.A. offers. Having spent time living and working here, he is honored to be opening a restaurant in one of the greatest food cities in the world. The Arts District is the perfect spot for Bao Hiroo, in that it’s very reflective of Chef Nagahara’s approach to food and overall style. He enjoys bending the norms, yet honoring nostalgia, technique, and flavor at the same time. In addition, much of the creative inspiration behind Bao Hiroo comes from the mischievous and playful spirit of the Tanuki, which was all around Chef Nagahara growing up in Japan. The Tanuki is known for being a trickster and shapeshifter, and his rascally persona is infused in the overall essence of the Bao Hiroo brand and menu.
Bao Hiroo’s concept is also thoughtfully reflected in the restaurant’s design. Nagahara has teamed up with Mass Architecture & Design to bring this vision to life. The space will incorporate a clean, industrial vibe, utilizing raw and natural elements such as dark woods and exposed brick. Artwork will be rotated beginning with pieces by Bay Area artist Eric Broers who designed the restaurant’s logo.
Bao Hiroo is located in the Arts District at 905 E. 2nd St. #109, Los Angeles, California and will open with lunch, dinner and late night service Monday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Delivery and To-Go orders will be available via GrubHub, DoorDash, UberEats and ChowNow.