Xiao Bao started as a way to satisfy our own late-night cravings for Asian foods we loved. We wanted to capture the flavors we discovered during our travels and to revisit the comfort foods of Duolan’s childhood. The Chinese term of endearment, “xiao bao” was the perfect way to sum up our journey across Asia. We wanted to tell a (love) story about traveling to other parts of the world, yet discovering that sense of home in each bite.
Our desire was to make simple, delicious, fun dishes prepared the way we had eaten them in Asia. In the beginning we worried about presenting our food without a safety net. But the more we thought about this, the more common ground we found between Southern and Asian cuisines: the history and importance of rice, the love of fried chicken, the braising and pickling of greens, the use of pickles in general, the prevalence of pork over beef — even funny things like Japanese cole slaw that’s ubiquitous with curry and Korean banchan-style potato salad. To test the waters, we started hosting pop-up dinners with the hopes that diners in Charleston could appreciate the bold flavors we craved, but also discover the same element of soul of Southern comfort dishes. Xiao Bao meets Biscuit.
After a year of pop-up events, we were quite convinced that we had something fun and different. When we opened our restaurant in mid-November 2012, we realized that those differences demanded knowledge on the part of everyone on the team. We wanted to be able to convey the stories behind the dishes. For instance, we first had okonomiyaki while farming in Japan. That story is highlighted in relation to both the beverage program and the interior setting. Helping guests navigate our concept provides an opportunity to share a new narrative that many people haven’t experienced. We always believed in keeping the menu concise and ever-changing, and clues, like country of origin, provide a framework we can elaborate on. Our guests learn what they like and how approaches to cooking and availability of ingredients change from country to country.
We see all we do as an extension of the menu, and each member of our XBB family serves as an ambassador for the restaurant. The kitchen’s location behind the bar means food is always visible as folks enjoy a drink and settle in. While the language on the page may be unclear for some, the smell of sichuan peppercorns, roasted garlic, and curry invite questions and a great beginning to what we hope will be a long conversation.
The gang at XBB can’t wait for you to stop in and share their story