Mike Blum and Guy Wong bring bao and ssam to the Westside

Yum Bunz scheduled to open in February

Yum Bunz, a fast-casual Asian spot serving steamed sandwiches called bao and Korean wraps called ssam, is set to open on the Westside next month. Mike Blum, founder of the Real Chow Baby, based the concept on a Chicago restaurant called Wow Bao and enlisted Miso Izakaya’s Guy Wong to help develop the menu.

The 3,700-square-foot restaurant across from Toscano and Sons will serve lunch and dinner and eventually breakfast. There will be stir-fry-type dishes, salads, soups, pot stickers, and dumplings along with bao and ssam. Bao are made with yeast dough and can contain the likes of yellow curry chicken or barbecue pork. Ssam consist of oversized rice paper with vegetables and chicken, steak, or tofu.

“We spent months perfecting the food. We did like thirty different Szechuan chickens, and it took almost a year to perfect the [bao] dough,” Blum says. “The restaurant won’t have a fryer, so everything will be steamed, preserving the nutrients and flavors.”

The narrow, “shotgun-type” interior will feature light woods, charcoal paints, black and white tiles, and stained polished floors. “It will be a mixture of modern and traditional with an Asian pop-art feel,” says Blum.

Yum Bunz will serve beer, wine, sake, and—despite acquiring a full liquor license—one cocktail: a mango and kaffir lime margarita.

Blum’s goal is to open freestanding locations in Buckhead and Perimeter in 2014, plus concessions at stadiums, airports, and college campuses. He says he’s even talking to former NBA star David Robinson about a partnership that would bring Yum Bunz to New York and Texas.

But first, the Westside location must open. Yum Bunz is about 75 percent built out and should be ready to open by the end of February, says Blum. When that happens, Wong will stay at Miso Izakaya and Chris Lee, who worked with Blum at Chow Baby, will take the lead in the kitchen.

“[Diners] have always gravitated toward quick-serve Asian on that side of town and we’re filling that niche,” Blum says. “Plus, the value of the concept ($8 and under) is really needed over there. It’s hard to find a place besides Subway or Chipotle where you can get that.”