Originally published by Optimista.
My second post for this year’s Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide (link currently goes to the 2015 guide, but the 2016 guide will go live soon!) is an update of my Chinese food guide for 2015. I spent the better part of the first eighteen years of my life eating Chinese food pretty much every day. My mom is a formidable cook, so this background led to me being a bit…picky…about Chinese food. And while Austin isn’t exactly a Chinese food mecca, there are some wonderful spots in town to find excellent Chinese cuisine.
|Salt & Pepper Squid at Din Ho = “the usual”|
If you live in or near Central Austin, Din Ho Chinese BBQ (8557 Research Blvd., Austin, TX 78758) is probably your go-to for Cantonese food. Over the twenty years I’ve been going there, the food and service has varied a bit in quality; even so, I’ve yet to be unhappy about a meal I’ve eaten here. Our standard order here always includes salt & pepper squid (called “fresh and dried squid in special salt” on their menu) and sauteed snow pea leaves; other favorites are their won ton soup, Peking duck (served with steamed buns rather than the traditional pancakes), and Singapore style rice noodles.
If you need a spot to host a large banquet or wedding, the very spacious New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753) is the place you’re seeking. An Asian organization to which I belong hosted their Lunar New Year banquet at New Fortune this year, and the food was fantastic. Looking for something a bit fancier? The more well-appointed Chinatown Restaurant (three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731; Downtown, 107 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701; and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746) would appeal to those turned off by the austere atmospheres of most Chinese restaurants. Chinatown’s food tilts away from the traditional, but traditional Chinese food lovers will enjoy the flavors here, too (my favorite dish here is their sizzling honey pepper steak).
Great Cantonese food can also be found at First Chinese BBQ (10901 N. Lamar, Austin, TX 78753) and Ho Ho Chinese BBQ (13000 N. IH-35, Austin, TX 78753). If you find yourself out in Lakeway, I’ve also had some truly outstanding meals at Pao’s Mandarin House (2300 Lohman’s Spur, Austin TX 78734). Hot tip: Pao’s has a secret menu with some of the more traditional dishes on it that I’ve found you have to ask for unless your party is predominantly Asian.
|Sichuan Spicy Sizzling Lamb at Sichuan River|
When you start talking Szechuanese food, most people are familiar with the popular Asia Cafe (8650 Spicewood Springs, Austin TX 78759), known for their spicy fish. Ditto A+A Sichuan (13376 Research Blvd., Austin TX 78750), a little ways further west of Asia Cafe. But few people seem to have heard of my favorite Szechuanese restaurant, Sichuan River (4534 Westgate Blvd, Austin TX 78745) down south. I’m also fond of the little-known Szechuan House (11005 Burnet Rd, Austin TX 78758) up north (ignore the terrible Americanized-looking food on their website – this is not representative!). Both Sichuan River and Szechuan House offer several dishes in common that are outstanding: a version of sizzling lamb; dry fried green beans; and ma po tofu. Szechuan House also has a mushroom dish called “Stir Fried Three Kind (sic) of Mushroom” that I would order pretty much every day if I were a vegetarian. If you’re looking for something more hip, Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701), from C.K. Chin of Swift’s Attic, also offers Szechuanese fare. You pay a premium for the beautiful surroundings and the downtown location, but there are certainly circumstances that justify the extra expense.
I’m not really sure this is a legitimate category for a Chinese food post, but there were three places whose noodles deserved mention so it seemed like they should all live together.
Rice Bowl Café (11220 N. Lamar, Austin TX 78753) serves up a GIGANTIC bowl of handmade noodles with beef and veggies for just $9.50; they also have my favorite scallion pancakes in town.
Chen’s Noodle House (8650 Spicewood Springs Rd., Austin TX 78759) and Chen Z (6705 Hwy 290, Austin TX 78735) both offer a variety of wonderful handmade noodle dishes in delightfully divey surroundings.
|Xian Noodles at Xian Sushi & Noodle|
Xian Sushi & Noodle (Two locations: Mueller – 1801 E. 51st St., Bldg C 370, Austin TX 78723 and Northwest – 13201 RR 620 N. Ste U208, Austin TX 78717) is the only place in town where you can watch a chef hand pull your noodles before serving them. You can choose the thickness of your noodles; I think the texture of the thicker ones like the pappardelle adds a bit of oomph that makes the noodles taste more homemade.
|Dan Ta (custard tarts) from Wu Chow|
In the last year, the dim sum scene in Austin has brightened a bit. For traditional dim sum, my favorite is New Fortune Chinese Seafood Restaurant (10901 North Lamar Blvd., Ste A-1, Austin TX 78753). For a more upscale dim sum experience, check out Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701) from C.K. Chin of Swift’s Attic. Their dim sum offerings are ridiculously good. They have hands-down the best xiao long bao in town and the flakiest dan ta (custard tarts) I have ever tasted. They are using high quality ingredients and making everything from scratch (including those incredible tart crusts!).
Other dim sum spots in town include Shanghai (6718 Middle Fiskville Rd., Austin TX 78752) and Chinatown Restaurant (dim sum only offered at two of their three locations: North, 3407 Greystone Dr., Austin TX 78731 and Westlake, 2712 Bee Caves Road, Ste 124, Austin TX 78746). Chinatown recently acquired a dim sum chef from San Francisco and significantly upped their dim sum game. Full blog post about Chinatown’s dim sum can be found here.
If you’re in the know about great Chinese food that I missed, please let me know in the comments!
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