I was overjoyed when Eater reported about Mei Lai Wah's reopening. Actually, I had only been there once, and it was late at night and they did not have any roast pork buns. That left me distraught, and soon after they got closed down by the DOH. With Sun Say Kai raising their prices on baked roast pork buns to 90 cents, and Mei Lai Wah gone, the world of baked roast pork buns just was not the same. I was a lost Chinese boy without any buns to make my belly bigger. Sadness all around yo. But this morning, my faith in the world of delicious was restored. I don't need Jesus, I found the perfect roast pork bun.
There were old people outside the bakery this morning. They weren't doing anything really, just standing there looking at the sign on the window. It was written in Chinese and I cannot read so oh well. (I believe eater.com has the picture of the signage.) Even from the outside, the new Mei Lai Wah looks new and clean and awesome. As Will Smith said in MIB, "you used to drive that old busted. See, I drive... the new hotness." Upgraded to the new hotness, Mei Lai Wah is looking good.
The interior looks new and clean as well. The workers all wear the same bright orange unis and red cap that say Mei Lai Wah on it. It feels a little radioactive early in the morning but at least they won't get busted for not wearing hairnets/hats now. And now, onto the fooooooood.
If you are new to the roast pork bun scene, you just have to know two things:
1. There is a BAKED bun and there is a STEAMED bun. Aside from the obvious difference in cooking method, the two buns are differentiated by the bun type. The baked bun is often more bread-like in consistency and glazed on top. The steamed bun is what you might be familiar with at dim sum. The top of the steamed buns are usually open and you can see the roast pork filling.
2. Most places totally shaft you on the filling to bun ratio. This is like the beef to bun ratio in hamburgers and it's just as important when you eat a roast pork bun
Mei Lai Wah uses a non-traditional bun for its steamed roast pork bun. Their bun is completed sealed off at the top and you do not see the filling in the middle. There was also too much bun and not enough filling on this. This brings it down a notch because the other type of bun is usually softer. If you go, skip the steamed bun unless they change the type of bun used.
The baked bun? Heaven. If you are still reading this, that means you're wasting time and you should get down to 64 Bayard Street right this moment and get a baked roast pork bun. Really, these things are bun perfection (Sorry, J.Lo). With soft, delicate bread that gives way to the flavorful filling, this bun was perfect. The bun to filling ratio at Mei Lai Wah is spot on and blows Sun Say Kai out of the water. I'm getting hungry just thinking about this and I just ate it not an hour ago.
Even though the Department of Health gets a bad rep for shutting restaurants down, I think Mei Lai Wah is better than it used to be. Cleaner, brighter, and a killer bun. It's a good thing that they are back, and hopefully they will stick around.
Mei Li Wah Bakery
64 Bayard St.
New York, NY 10013
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