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30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Yum Bunz

 Char Siu BBQ Pork, Chicken Teriyaki and Mongolian Beef bunz with Asian Green Salad, Corn salad, and cucumber salad. (BECKY STEIN)

Char Siu BBQ Pork, Chicken Teriyaki and Mongolian Beef buns with Asian Green Salad, Corn salad, and cucumber salad. (BECKY STEIN)

When I was a teenager  I visited my brother, who was then living in a studio apartment with two friends in the West Village. We would walk down to Chinatown, to a carryout window where a dollar would buy you one large, hot-off-the-steamer bao filled with char sui barbecued pork.

It wasn’t just the seasoning and the ingredients that made it taste so good, but also that inimitable sensation of eating food that had just minutes before been transformed by steam. Sticky to the touch, airy to the bite, gushy in the center, steamy enough to fog your glasses.

I’d love to repeat the feeling at Yum Bunz, but after one meal my first impression is that the namesake bao are the weakest link in an otherwise pleasant quick-service Asian restaurant. The team behind this clean, modern newcomer to the Westside’s restaurant row consists of Guy Wong from Miso Izakaya and Mike Blum from The Real Chow Baby. The concept is not-so-loosely modeled after Wow Bao, a small Chicago chain.

The buns come in a half dozen flavors and use good ingredients, such as local vegetables and naturally raised meats. That’s the good news.

The bad: Both of the buns I tried (teriyaki chicken and curry chicken) had pasty fillings that didn’t steam, gush or tumble unpredictably. I found out that the buns are made off site in a factory, transported frozen to the restaurant and reheated — showily, from an open kitchen — in steamers.

I would imagine that preparing the dough and fillings on site and proofing the buns would involve a lot more work than this restaurant could handle if it routinely fills the 100 or so seats in the dining room. But I wonder if that’s precisely what’s needed to make these buns as crave worthy as those I ate at that carryout window in New York.

Other dishes fared much better. Pork-chive dumplings are far better than the potstickers I buy frozen in bags. A kale salad with candied coconut, radish and miso dressing made its weird case. The restaurant also serves bowls that you customize with your choice of protein, sauce and starch. This will be a useful restaurant on the Westside for those times when you need a good Asian fix, bunz or no bunz.

- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog

19 comments Add your comment


August 22nd, 2013
10:54 am

Disappointing! This place caught my eye but recent Yelp “reviews”, and now yours, don’t make we want to jump in the car and head to this place.

Ned Ludd

August 22nd, 2013
11:09 am

Let’s find out where the factory is, meet you there. Some things should only be eaten right away.
Only been once, great flavor but odd texture. Did not care for décor, too sterile. Opposite of similar spots on Buford Hwy in many ways.

OTP with ITP Appetite

August 22nd, 2013
12:23 pm

If you can’t do it right, and do it right there, then don’t do it at all. And exactly what is “naturally raised meat”? Sounds like marketing to me. If it were pastured, they would be proud to say so.

[...] 30 Restaurants in 30 Days: Yum Bunz [...]


August 22nd, 2013
2:56 pm

They bao are OK. Not great but not terrible. The fillings were rather bland and too chopped up – like they had been blended. I thought the place was nice and the service was very good.


August 22nd, 2013
8:15 pm

Kiosco’s is still#1. Go back and enjoy the Medio chicken or the Bandeja Paisa.


August 23rd, 2013
1:15 am

We have been rading all the hype about Yum Bunz and we excited to try it once it finally opened. The best word to describe it was disappointing. The buns were soggy and the fillings mediocre. We also tried the dumplings which were good but disappointingly small. They were more like a small potsticker than a dumpling. The rice bowls were also only mediocre. We were looking for dim sum without going to Buford Highway or Golden House in Gwinnette. Sorry, this is not the answer. I think overall it is below the quality level of the Panda Expreee. the best part of the concept is the look of the restaurant and the packaging. It is sad that the food can’t measure up to the hype and packaging.


August 23rd, 2013
6:09 am

Coming from the Caribbean where Cantonese style Cha Sow Shao Bao has been a fixture for over 60 years, I had hoped that when I saw your article I had finally found a place here in Atlanta to go and get some like what I remembered. I also grew up with freshly made Bao on premises, using BBQ pork, and then steamed just in time for lunch. The filling is nothing like what is described here. The meat was cut into little cubes, with a sauce to reflect the taste of the Cha Sow style pork. The dough was light and fluffy. These look like the ones you buy from freezers in any Asian supermarket in ATL, and steam at home….YUK!


August 23rd, 2013
8:27 am

Mr. Kessler, why don’t you have a top three award for the nice series that you have done? Kiosco appears to be the #1 choice.


August 23rd, 2013
8:44 am

War Eagle – great idea!!


August 23rd, 2013
8:58 am

We’re not at 30 yet are we? I think they’re still a few more to go.


August 23rd, 2013
9:22 am

Agree with War Eagle. Maybe Day 31 (since some months have 31 days), should be a recap with the best and worst.


August 23rd, 2013
9:34 am

You’ve created a monster, John! ;-)

It’s nice to have you back on the poor (or cheap, depending on your viewpoint) side of town. I, for one, have really enjoyed the series. A wrap up or a top three would be great.



August 23rd, 2013
11:05 am

I was really excited for this place, but I’ve only read negative things. It took so long to open something so mediocre?


August 23rd, 2013
12:02 pm

Prefab signature dishes, Golden Corral. Mmmm, makes me wish I still lived ITP. Tired of all these restaurants OTP using locally sourced meat and veggies and making stuff from scratch.

Ono Kine Island Grindz

August 23rd, 2013
12:15 pm

I love char siu bao, commonly called manapua in Hawaii. However, living in the Aloha state spoiled me and I now much prefer baked manapua (which just don’t seem to exist outside Hawaii) over steamed.

But before y’all condemn me, I bet even Lewis Grizzard would have enjoyed him some baked manapua; after all, they amount to a little sealed-up bobbycue pork-pig sammich. And we all know how Lewis felt about THOSE. :D

John Kessler

August 23rd, 2013
12:49 pm

Heya – Thanks! I’ll definitely do a wrap. There’s one in the print paper today, but I kind of wanted to rejigger it for online. Look for it next week. JK


August 23rd, 2013
4:28 pm

Having grown up in San Francisco and spending practically every Sunday morning eating dim sum I was delighted and curious to visit Yum Bunz with my daughter who LOVES her some bao.
I knew going in these babies wouldn’t be the authentic fluffs of heaven that were carefully assembled in the small kitchens in little Chinatown, but they didn’t even come close. The fillings was bland and the texture was a ball of mushy pulled pork, not the pieces of BBQ pork with a slightly sweet oyster sauce that one would expect. And the buns themselves were mushy and factory sealed like those in the frozen section of Super H mart. A few even had that freezer burn taste that you sometimes get from a bag that had never been properly rotated. I was very disappointed to find there was more hype than product in our visit. At least I can say that I tried, but I will stick to the Canton House for real dim sum even with it’s outdated and cheezy decor.


August 24th, 2013
9:46 am

Overall I do like Yum Bunz, but I, too, was disappointed that the bao just don’t live up to my expectations. Having the freshly made bao every morning when I’m in Shanghai, I was so looking forward to getting something similar here. As others have written, the Yum Bunz fillings, while creative, are texturally weird. Almost like baby food. Not very pleasant. The tastes are good, but that texture is just off-putting. I do enjoy the accompanying sides, especially the Asian slaw and that green papaya salad.

Now, Hapanese, I’m not sure why you’d call Canton House “real dim sum”. It is far too Americanized to be called “real”, but since you grew up in SF, I guess the Americanized is what you’re accustomed to. A better choice would be going to East Pearl, in Duluth, or BBQ Corner II at Asian Square (not served in push carts, but can order a la cart from the menu). Those are far more authentic.