Hongbao is one of the highest rated dining options in Dhaka for good reason. You get five star service, ambience and food quality without any of the hassle and gatekeeping of an elite restaurant. Reservations are really easy to make and you will be greeted at your table with a custom printed nameplate.
The vast majority of Dhakaias are either reticent to patronise the establishment, or haven't caught the hype yet, as such, walk-in diners are promptly accommodated. Some would consider the ambiance and clientele a bit intimidating but the staff and servers do away with that through their earnest hospitality.
The restaurant operates between 12:00 to 3:30 PM and then 7:00 to 10:30 PM everyday. Props to the management and Head Chef Jai Ram Pariyar for how they run their operation, prep time is the core of all cuisine and the fact that the kitchen staff take their time to gear up for lunch and dinner services manifests itself during the hours they are open.
The service is subtle and swift, the turnaround time for any kind of order (unless you order the steak) is below 15 minutes. Every server is intimately familiar with all the dishes, and ingredients, while the kitchen staff is very cooperative towards dietary restrictions and food allergies. As soon as you are seated, you are served a shot of lemonade with bits of lychee and some pickled carrots and cucumbers to cleanse your palette before the feast.
Hongbao caters to every desired flavour profile available in priental cuisine. You can never go wrong with a hearty soup and some filling dumplings or their wide gamut of chicken items prepared in a variety of styles which are emblematic of some staples of south-east asian cuisine. Hongbao's most delectable treats come from the earth and the sea.
Crunchy fried mushroom with lemongrass is a brilliant and light starter consisting of a mixed platter of battered Shiitake, King Trumpet and White Button mushrooms deep fried with zesty lemongrass that seals in the heat and retains the juicy moisture of the appetiser. It is served with masterfully balanced, tangy and spicy dipping sauce. If you and your friends are proficient with chopsticks this dish can serve as a communal starter without the added burden of heaping servings onto your plate.
Seafood is where Hongbao excels, there is no other dining experience in the capital that can rival the flavour profile and the freshness of the seafood section of this restaurant. Their selection of fish is immaculate and will definitely have you pondering how they got such fresh fish onto your plate this fast. The chilli garlic prawn with mantou buns is a perfect encapsulation of the kitchen staff's mastery over seafood. The succulent and seared prawns with egg drops, garlic and toban chilli are balanced out with the light, fluffy and mildly sweet steamed mantou breads. The finger length prawns hit your tongue with the perfect twist, while the mantou breads dipped in the thick and oil-free gravy fill up your stomach with enough to take on the whole day.
If you happen to be the less adventurous type and want to be absolutely sure about what you are paying for, TBS recommends you order any of their Szechuan style dishes. Remember the sweet and sour prawn balls from your family outings to chinese restaurants? Hongbao's Szechuan Pepper Prawn is the gentrified version of that and is guaranteed to give you that trademark taste of nostalgia.
It really is no surprise given that Bangladeshis are unofficially world renowned to have some of the best adaptations of Szechuan style food. One of the best Szechuan restaurants in the world is run by a Bangladeshi man in New York and has been featured by rapper/chef Action Bronson. Head Chef Jai Ram Pariyar upholds that reputation magnificently.
The Szechuan Pepper Prawns are crispy, crunchy, and juicy prawns encompassing the flavour profiles of basil and coriander leaves, water chestnuts, and szechuan peppercorns. The dish is served in a crispy edible bowl made of rice flour. Once you and your cohorts are done with the prawns you can break off a piece of the bowl soaked in szechuan gravy for an encore of the dish you just consumed.
If price tag is no barrier to your culinary options TBS recommends you go for the sparkling cod fish, it will reawaken your inner Bangalee and definitely warrants an upload on your social media feed.
Hongbao's interior design is the picture perfect example of the ideal restaurant. The lighting is relaxing and the decor imparts an air of sophistication without being garish or distracting. The ambience has been carefully engineered to facilitate conversation and recharge the human battery. The one nitpick we would levy is that whoever is in charge of the restaurant's playlist needs to be informed that this isn't foreign mall from five years ago. The joint exudes hospitality and class, the music being played in the establishment should reflect that.
Most city food leaves you with a feeling of "why did I pay that much money to feel this gross?". A dining experience in Hongbao would be the exact opposite of that; you can feel the unadulterated and fresh nutrition seep into your body as soon as you leave the establishment whilst entertaining peripheral thoughts about your next visit.