Universal Orlando CityWalk has really grown over the years. The dining options have gotten more exciting and unique, and there’s almost too much to choose from. In some cases, it makes more sense to leave the parks and just dine at CityWalk. The one disappointment of CityWalk has always been quick service options, but now it’s a little bit better with the addition of Bend the Bao.
Bend the Bao is an Asian fusion restaurant specializing in, you guessed it, bao buns. It is on the “second floor” of Universal CityWalk beside the Cinemark theater in the former spot of Fusion Bistro Sushi & Sake Bar. Panda Express, Moe’s Southwest Kitchen, Burger King Whopper Bar, and Bread Box are all very close as well making this the go-to spot for quick service dining.
The menu is simple enough. 2 Bao Buns will cost you $11.99 and you can add an additional bun for $4.49. There are seven different choices: Kimchee FC, Pork Belly, Duck, Beef Brisket, Veggie, Shrimp, and Crab Cake. Soda, tea and water are also available.
Let’s go over the bao buns in order they are pictured starting left to right with Pork Belly, Duck, and Veggie followed by Beef Brisket, Crab Cake, and Kimchee FC.
The Pork Belly (pork belly, scallions, cucumber, honey roasted peanuts, cilantro) was disappointing overall. The pork belly was way too dry and completely overcooked. Cilantro dominated the flavor of the dish and there just wasn’t enough meat on it. The Duck (braised duck, kimchee slaw, XO sauce, cilantro, 5 spice aioli) was balanced for the most part, but the cilantro still came on strong over the two sauces. The kimchee slaw did provide a crunch and made the texture more pleasant. The Veggie (roasted oyster mushrooms, spinach, sweet potato, caramelized onion, smoke ricotta cheese, tomatillo sauce) was interesting, but very mushroom heavy making it chewy. The smoked ricotta provided a unique flavor and wasn’t overdone in the dish.
The Beef Brisket (beef brisket, fried jalapeno, pickled red onion, cilantro, avocado lime crema) was one of the better choices surprisingly. The brisket was basically non-existant, but the fried jalapenos added a crunch and spiciness to the bun. The avocado lime crema added that twist of citrus and cooled the bun down. The Crab Cake (Maryland style crab cake, shredded lettuce, diced tomato, mustard aioli) was enjoyable for the most part. It was hearty, but the mustard aioli was a bit of a miss. Finally, the Kimchee FC (kimchee fried chicken, kimchee butter, gochujang, cucumber, scallion, sriracha aioli) came ready to pack the heat. The chicken was dried out, but the aioli, gochujang, and kimchee butter did the heavy lifting here.
The best part of the bao is actually the bao itself. The buns are light, airy, fluffy and were cooked perfectly. The problem with Bend the Bao is the pricing and portions. The buns are not nearly filled enough to justify the price. The quality of ingredients is better than average and for the most part is pretty good. That being said, this buns should be priced closer to 3 for $13 or $14 or 2 for $10 at the very most. It’s a theme park destination, so of course it’s going to cost more than outside property, but it’s still a little steep.
If you haven’t had bao before and this is the best way for you to try it out, go for it. If you have a favorite bao spot at home, you should probably pass this one up unless you’re really in the mood for it. Regardless, it adds a new quick service spot for CityWalk and it’s not just burgers and fries. If you’re looking to travel to Universal Orlando soon for Bend the Bao and you want to support us, please consider booking your next vacation through Dreams Unlimited Travel!