A sleepy dragon curls its way through Hutt Street restaurant Bai Long Store, which opened late last year. Look closely to find it. Hints of a tail, a scaly belly and the tip of its nose are woven into the restaurant’s design: from the interior to the menus.
The co-owners don’t like the limelight. Instead, they prefer to fix the spotlight on head chef Jae Hyun-Park. Jae is Korean and lived in America and Melbourne before the Bai Long team convinced him to move to Adelaide. There, he was co-owner of former Collingwood restaurant Bistro K and also worked at Nobu at Crown Melbourne.
Photos courtesy of Josie Withers
Bai Long’s modern Asian fusion menu is a mix of Japanese, Korean and Chinese cuisines and the aesthetic and dishes are all about balance. Jae brings them together.
The team initially flew Jae to Adelaide and took him to dine at Concubine and Gin Long Canteen. They outlined their Bai Long Store vision and let him loose in the kitchen.
“They explained the story and I worked around that,” Jae says.
After the first bite, they knew he was the one.
Jae made the move from Melbourne with his wife and six-year-old son.
“When I came here for the first time I felt more comfortable than ever,” he says.
“I’d been in Melbourne for seven years. Adelaide is great, though I haven’t seen much – I’m working too hard!”
They started big, opening on 1 January 2018 with a breakfast, lunch and dinner offering.
Bai Long Store’s open kitchen
Takeaway and grab-and-go snacks are also available. Noodle soup (breakfast), eggplant with Guinness batter and Sichuan caramel; soft belly kimchi wrapped pork with steamed tofu; DIY sushi; prawn miso bisque with fruit salsa, and chocolate lava cake are memorable. The ethos is healthy, balanced food for the belly, and a relaxing environment for the mind and soul.
Aesthetics are important, too. The team at studio -gram designed the space, formerly home to Milano café (you can read more about studio -gram here). The design is a nod to the Chinese yin and yang philosophy. Black and white is used throughout and Chinese symbols grace the walls, menus and toilet doors.
Bai Long Store menus
Henry Jarman (MYTH) joined the team as art designer and worked his magic across the menus and finer creative details. Boutique builder The Little Build Co. made the vision come to life.
Customer service is a vital piece of the puzzle. Particularly in the modern-day dining landscape. The Bai Long team wants to give diners a memorable experience and does so through attention to detail – and tea. Six tea varieties are presented using traditional ceremonial techniques. There is also a retail offering: tea, tea-drinking equipment, and chopsticks are available for purchase. Each product comes with a love note. It’s heart-warming stuff.
The aim is to encourage balance – in the restaurant and at home.
“[It’s about] body, heart and soul. We indulge our body with food and wine, we fill our heart with [a] sweet treat and calm our soul with the tea.”
Jae in the kitchen at Bai Long
Their mission could have kicked off anywhere. Adelaide just made sense. The owners believe South Australia is happening and unique.
“This is the reason why we have seen so many good chefs coming back to Adelaide.”
They hope to soothe souls and stomachs – one dish at a time.
“The world is leaning towards a trend where all cultures are mixing together. It’s all about respecting other people. Not necessarily understanding, but respecting.”
Bai Long Store, 80 Hutt Street, city. Open for breakfast Thursday to Sunday (8am to 11:30am), lunch Tuesday to Sunday (12pm to 3pm), and dinner Tuesday to Sunday from 5:30pm.