Wanna Bao, a new Chinese restaurant in from first-time restaurateurs Dean and Grace Dee, has officially opened its doors.
Located at Bagby and Dennis, the restaurant specializes in cuisine from Shanghai and Chengdu and that in itself is exciting. But the restaurant’s real draw — its juicy xiao long bao, or soup dumplings — has diners buzzing. Dean and his wife, both petroleum engineers by trade, quit their jobs two years ago. “It was my wife’s dream to own a restaurant” says Dean, who, thanks to his own roots in the restaurant industry — his parents own the highly lauded One Dragon Restaurant on Bellaire Boulevard in Chinatown — joined forces with her to achieve this dream.
Grace, who will be overseeing the front of the house, designed the chic, contemporary, 3,800 sq. foot space. Set in dark wood tones with attractive pendant and accent lighting, with cut-out windows in a design reminiscent of a traditional Chinese tea house, the restaurant has 114 seats and its own parking lot.
Dean, the restaurant’s executive chef, worked in his father’s kitchen for a year an a half prior to developing his menu, which features dishes from Shanghai like the soup dumplings, crispy-bottom bao and pork belly with rice cracker, as well as popular dishes from Chengdu in China’s Sichuan province. Sichuan highlights include the jasmine tea-smoked duck (served with wraps, scallion and cucumber like Peking duck); the Angus pepper beef cubes with peppers; and the whiskey shrimp on fire.
“We want to bring Asian and Chinese cuisine to another level,” says Dean, emphasizing that though he trained with his father, his menu will be completely different. “Right now, the menu is Sichuan and Shanghai style. Later on, we plan to add Singaporean cuisine and South Asian dishes to the menu as well.”
Wanna Bao is now “soft-open” Monday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 to 9:30 p.m., and Friday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Tuesday, and full business hours will be announced in the coming weeks.