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[Austin] Chinese restaurants for a Chinese palate


Kent Wang
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I am from Shanghai, here are my picks in order:

T&S Seafood

Pao's Mandarin House

Din Ho

China Palace (traditional menu)

Marco Polo

Tien Hong

Dim sum offerings factor in greatly in the above scale, but the following is dim sum only:

Pao's Mandarin House

T&S Seafood

Marco Polo

Tien Hong

Golden Bay (terrible)

Any thoughts from other Austinites with a lot of experience and taste for traditional Chinese food?

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Hi Kent,

I'll be moving to Austin in 2 weeks, thus I have nothing to offer, but I have a question. I'm Chinese, and from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I know I will miss stuff like Won Ton Mein, Chow Mai Fun, and Jook. Can you recommend any restaurants that serve good versions of these Cantonese dishes?

dexygus
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Hi Kent,

I'll be moving to Austin in 2 weeks, thus I have nothing to offer, but I have a question.  I'm Chinese, and from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I know I will miss stuff like Won Ton Mein, Chow Mai Fun, and Jook.  Can you recommend any restaurants that serve good versions of these Cantonese dishes?

Hmm, I'm a bit fuzzy on the Cantonese pronunciations. Can you say them in Mandarin or otherwise describe them? PM me once you get in town. We can get some Dim Sum together. Dallas and Houston have far superiour traditional Chinese restaurants as well.

What irritates me the most is the lack of Xiao Long Bao in Austin. Do you like them? They're a Shanghai specialty. In Shanghai there are even entire restaurants devoted to only serving them!

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Hi Kent,

I'll be moving to Austin in 2 weeks, thus I have nothing to offer, but I have a question.  I'm Chinese, and from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I know I will miss stuff like Won Ton Mein, Chow Mai Fun, and Jook.  Can you recommend any restaurants that serve good versions of these Cantonese dishes?

Din Ho has pretty good won ton noodles. Tan Tan, a vietnamese restaurant off of highway 183 has pretty good won ton noodle soup too.

i think din ho has chow mai fun (stir fried rice noodles, right?) on their menu too, but i've not had them.

all in all, don't expect much from chinese restaurants in austin. they will all be disappointing in some respect. i think the only one i can really back is Pao's Mandarin House for szechuan cuisine. but din ho and t&s offer some of the better cantonese options you can't get anywhere else in the city. T&S is a bit overpriced though (for chinese food i think) but they have congee/jook and a great dim sum selection. another place i like is Wok n Roll on north Burnet for things like gan chau niu he (flat rice noodles with beef and scallions) and pork and thousand year old egg congee, and fried rice with salty fish... stuff like that.

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Din Ho has pretty good won ton noodles. Tan Tan, a vietnamese restaurant off of highway 183 has pretty good won ton noodle soup too.

Is this just noodles made with sliced up won ton skins? That's really easy to make. I've made a few rather excellent batches.

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  • 3 weeks later...

thanks for the responses, kent, and yimay. sorry for such a delay in my response. i've been in austin for about 10 days now, and it's been lovely. sorry to hear that there are no xiao long bao in austin. i just talked to my family in the bay area, and that's what they're having for lunch today, dang them. though i did have a great guisado de puerco burrito from polvos, so i guess i can't complain.

kent, i just may take you up on your offer.

dexygus
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  • 4 weeks later...

I'd really like to promote China Palace. My friend's boyfriend's family does own it, but it really is a damn good restaurant that has not received any press. Austin Chronicle has written well of its buffet, but this is just cheap Americanized fare. Their traditional menu rivals that of Din Ho, and I think is certainly superior in quality if not in diversity. I don't think they publicize the availability of the Chinese menu, so the critics are probably not even aware of its existence.

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  • 1 month later...

I went to Pao's with my parents and had spicy beef tendon, duck tongue and ham hock tendon. When I go to Chinese restaurants, I really prefer more exotic stuff like that. Pao's Chinese menu is very extensive, and along with China Palace, have menus with a lot more depth than T&S and Din Ho. Maybe it's because I've been to each of those restaurants nearly a dozen times now, but the menus at T&S and Din Ho just no longer excite me. For a conservative meal with Western friends, they are good choices; although said friends are often very satisfied with those meals and I am pleased to have introduced them to a taste of traditional Chinese cuisine, I'm a little bored with getting the same old same old.

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  • 3 weeks later...
i know what you mean.  i can barely speak it, much less read it.  back home, i always relied on my parents to order/decipher the menu.

I've been trying to get restaurants to fax me the menu in advance so I can use a dictionary and Google to look things up.

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Hi Kent,

I'll be moving to Austin in 2 weeks, thus I have nothing to offer, but I have a question.  I'm Chinese, and from the San Francisco Bay Area, and I know I will miss stuff like Won Ton Mein, Chow Mai Fun, and Jook.  Can you recommend any restaurants that serve good versions of these Cantonese dishes?

Hmm, I'm a bit fuzzy on the Cantonese pronunciations. Can you say them in Mandarin or otherwise describe them? PM me once you get in town. We can get some Dim Sum together. Dallas and Houston have far superiour traditional Chinese restaurants as well.

What irritates me the most is the lack of Xiao Long Bao in Austin. Do you like them? They're a Shanghai specialty. In Shanghai there are even entire restaurants devoted to only serving them!

Kent, can you tell me of a dim sum place in houston?

The one we used to go to has been closed down for a quite some time now and haven't been able to find another one.

TIA

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Kent, can you tell me of a dim sum place in houston?

The one we used to go to has been closed down for a quite some time now and haven't been able to find another one.

TIA

You should probably start a new thread about that, to attract the attention of the Houstonians on this forum. The Houston Press website is another good resource.

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  • 2 months later...

Went to China Palace last week.

I highly recommend the pork intestines in the house special sauce. It is a thick brown sauce that is slightly sweet, very Shanghai.

The sea cucumber and pork tendon was also good. The sea cucumber slices were the biggest I've ever had while being totally tender. I do think the dish is too mildly flavored; both sea cucumber and pork tendon are nearly tasteless so I think a strong sauce is essential. Next time, I will ask them to use a different sauce.

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  • 3 weeks later...

i checked out china palace last night. i find it odd that places with separate chinese menus don't give the menus out to all of the customers, chinese or caucasian. i'm chinese and went with a white friend and i had to ask for this special menu. i supposed i look very americanized. i think they are doing a disservice to many locals that want other options besides sesame chicken and egg rolls by not letting them see the entire menu.

anyhoo, we ordered the red oil wontons (one of my favorite sichuan dishes), ma po's tofu, one of the pork intestine dishes (i think the one with sichuan spicy sauce) and some scallion pancakes. i loved it all. the ma po's tofu tasted better than my mom's (don't tell her)! i'm definitely going back as they are right down the street from my house and they deliver! thanks for the tip, kent!

Edited by yimay (log)
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The International District in Seattle has a great place, Sea Garden, that serves a seafood mix on crispy noodles. These noodles are my favorite. I am wondering if there is a place in Austin that has anything like it.

The noodles start out soft but are then pan fried to a crispy outisde, flipped and crisped again. The fish and sauce go over, with lots of scallions. I was told this was Shanghai style.

Thanks for any suggestions.

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a lot of chinese (and some vietnamese) restaurants have this or a version of it with varying levels of tastiness... some can really eff it up though, so be wary. usually it's called Pan Fried Noodles or Crispy Fried Noodles on english menus (Liang Mian Huang in mandarin) and you can choose your meat combination. the last time i had it was at Din Ho BBQ. they serve it with a seafood (shrimp, squid, fake crab) and meat combination (chicken, pork, beef). their version is pretty decent, the sauce is super oily though. i believe T&S serves pan fried noodles as well.

also China Palace, that Kent (and now I) rave about, over on Airport also has pan fried noodles. i haven't had it, but based on the meal i had the other night at their restaurant, it is probably pretty good.

Edited by yimay (log)
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I have tried T&S, not real thrilled by it, but I will give China Palace a try.  Thanks!

What did you order? I will echo Austin Chronicle: anything "salt and pepper" is great. It's not a very informative name but it means deep fried and dipped in salt and chile oil. My favorite is the salt and pepper soft-shell crab. The double lobster is also a great deal, especially if they have it on special for $29.95. That's two lobsters and you choose which style to cook it in. I think the scallion and ?garlic? style is the best. Shrimp with walnuts is a bit Americanized but also damn good. Roasted quail in salt is also pretty unique; what other Chinese restaurants serve quail?

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I recently had an exchange over email that, with the writer's permission, I am sharing here:

Hi, Kent,

Read your thread on egullet.org on authentic chinese

restaurant in Austin...very informative, thanks!!!

My wife and I are in somewhat a quandary and perhaps

you can help us.  We live in houston but we are

hosting a friend from China for lunch in austin a

couple of saturdays away.  He specifically requested

authentic chinese food.  You mentioned china palace as

your current favorite.  A couple of follow-up

questions if I may:

- how is the service there?

- how is the decor there?

- What regional chinese menu do they serve?  Northern

Chinese or Shanghainese or others?

- What other chinese restaurants do you recommend?

Many thanks in advance for all your help,

XXX

I actually think Pao's is slightly better than China Palace. Pao's is Mandarin,

which approximates what the imperials ate in Beijing, it is northern-style with

a lot of roasted items but also incorporating a lot of styles from all over the

country as all the best regional chefs gathered in the capital.

China Palace is distinctly Cantonese. Best dish is the pork intestine in the

house special sauce. Everything else is fine, just use your intuition. If you

look Chinese they should automatically hand you the Chinese menu, but

double-check if the menu you get is all sweet & sour pork etc.

You mentioned that you were going for a weekend lunch so perhaps dim sum might

be more up your alley? In that case, you should only consider Pao's or T&S

Seafood. China Palace does not serve dim sum. T&S is often too crowded during

dim sum and the service can be atrocious. I actually prefer the dim sum dishes

at Pao's though since T&S is Cantonese it is more "authentic" dim sum. Pao's

also does not push a cart around and has you order from a menu; it's dishes are

also bigger by about 50% and has less steamed items.

Service and decor at Pao's and China Palace are similar, fairly nice. T&S is

several levels below in both respects; it's much more of a "hole in the wall"

type place.

I think Pao's will be your best choice, dim sum or otherwise. The only reason

that may dissuade you is that it's located in Lakeway, about a 20-minute drive

from downtown Austin. Depending on your situation, that may actually be

preferred as the drive there through the Texas Hill Country is quite scenic.

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  • 4 months later...

Don't know how I missed this but Austin Chronicle finally paid China Palace a visit and tried the Chinese menu. Rather positive review from Mick Vann.

The newly opened First Chinese BBQ in the new Chinatown on North Lamar is terrific. Pretty good roast items like duck and chicken -- though no proper Peking duck -- and BBQ pork are on par with Din Ho. I had the roast duck and BBQ pork platter ($7). I also ordered the marinated pork tongue, ear and stomach platter ($6). Delicious. The ear was very tender and fatty. Generous portions on each dish, more than enough food for two people for -- get this -- $14 after tax.

The decor is unusual for a Chinese restaurant. Like a sparsely-decorated Starbucks. Certainly a welcome change from the hole-in-the-wall type places like T&S. The service was also unusually attentive.

After just one visit I'm going to have to rank it up there with T&S, Din Ho and China Palace. I still think that Pao's has a more extensive menu of traditional items. Hmm, I wonder if First Chinese does dim sum.

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  • 1 month later...

I was not impressed with First Chinese, and will continue to patronize Din Ho over it. We had a hard time getting the attention of the waitstaff, and when we finally did, they were rather curt.

We ordered a spinach and mushroom dish, BBQ chicken, and a clay pot that was supposed to contain sea bass. The veggies were fine, I actually rather enjoyed them. The chicken was WAY too dry and over cooked, to the point that it stuck in the back of my throat on the way down. Ick. The sea bass clay pot... oh lord don't even get me started. It was on the special board, which I can't read, but was with someone who can. It sounded great, so we ordered it. There was not one single actual peice of fish in the whole damn thing. There were lots of bones and skin, though. And fish fat. But no actual, you know, fish flesh. There was also a miasma of aroma wafting off the thing, and a whole conglomeration of various vegetables, and, for some weird reason, lots of pork. I mean, God. Don't put the thing on the specials if you can't actually make it.

So I don't know if I'll be back. Maybe I'll give it one more shot.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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  • 4 weeks later...

T.C. Noodle House in the new Chinatown Center is open. I ate there a few days ago and then gave it another shot today for takeout while working the Austin Record Convention. I think it was very disappointing. Their menu consists mostly of noodle dishes, some rice dishes and a large selection of appetizers. I've tried their pan fried noodles, wonton soup, various noodles with various toppings (duck, seafood, etc..) in broth, their version of a "pad thai" and potstickers they call cantonese style pan fried dumplings. Everything was pretty bland and not memorable at all. the dumplings were ok, but poorly cooked/presented. I only liked it because the filling was similar to a Shu Mai filling which I enjoy. But overall I'm sad. This place was also brimming with Asian clientele, which confuses me as the quality of food doesn't even meet my very tolerable standard of "decent" chinese food. (I don't think i'd consider this food tolerable). But it's possible many of them were there for the first time as well.

I also tried the bbq pork Banh Mi at Lily's sandwich shop across the parking lot from T.C. Noodle House... also disappointing, especially after reading about people waiting out the door for sandwiches and them running out in the afternoons. I still like Pho Van's (formerly Cong Ly) pork banh mi the best. However Lily's makes a killer Cafe Sua Da (vietnamese ice coffee). I will be going back for more coffee for sure.

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      Pleurotus geesteranus, 秀珍菇 (xiù zhēn gū) (below) are a particularly delicate version of the oyster mushroom family and usually used in soups and hot pots.
       

       
      凤尾菇 (fèng wěi gū), literally “Phoenix tail mushroom”, is a more robust, meaty variety which is more suitable for stir frying.
       

       
      Another member of the pleurotus family bears little resemblance to its cousins and even less to an oyster. This is pleurotus eryngii, known variously as king oyster mushroom, king trumpet mushroom or French horn mushroom or, in Chinese 杏鲍菇 (xìng bào gū). It is considerably larger and has little flavour or aroma when raw. When cooked, it develops typical mushroom flavours. This is one for longer cooking in hot pots or stews.
       

       
      One of my favourites, certainly for appearance are the clusters of shimeji mushrooms. Sometimes known in English as “brown beech mushrooms’ and in Chinese as 真姬菇 zhēn jī gū or 玉皇菇 yù huáng gū, these mushrooms should not be eaten raw as they have an unpleasantly bitter taste. This, however, largely disappears when they are cooked. They are used in stir fries and with seafood. Also, they can be used in soups and stews. When cooked alone, shimeji mushrooms can be sautéed whole, including the stem or stalk. There is also a white variety which is sometimes called 白玉 菇 bái yù gū.
       

       

       
      Next up we have the needle mushrooms. Known in Japanese as enoki, these are tiny headed, long stemmed mushrooms which come in two varieties – gold (金針菇 jīn zhēn gū) and silver (银针菇 yín zhēn gū)). They are very delicate, both in appearance and taste, and are usually added to hot pots.
       

       

       
      Then we have these fellows – tea tree mushrooms (茶树菇 chá shù gū). These I like. They take a bit of cooking as the stems are quite tough, so they are mainly used in stews and soups. But their meaty texture and distinct taste is excellent. These are also available dried.
       

       
      Then there are the delightfully named 鸡腿菇 jī tuǐ gū or “chicken leg mushrooms”. These are known in English as "shaggy ink caps". Only the very young, still white mushrooms are eaten, as mature specimens have a tendency to auto-deliquesce very rapidly, turning to black ‘ink’, hence the English name.
       

       
      Not in season now, but while I’m here, let me mention a couple of other mushrooms often found in the supermarkets. First, straw mushrooms (草菇 cǎo gū). Usually only found canned in western countries, they are available here fresh in the summer months. These are another favourite – usually braised with soy sauce – delicious! When out of season, they are also available canned here.
       

       
      Then there are the curiously named Pig Stomach Mushrooms (猪肚菇 zhū dù gū, Infundibulicybe gibba. These are another favourite. They make a lovely mushroom omelette. Also, a summer find.
       

       
      And finally, not a mushroom, but certainly a fungus and available fresh is the wood ear (木耳 mù ěr). It tastes of almost nothing, but is prized in Chinese cuisine for its crunchy texture. More usually sold dried, it is available fresh in the supermarkets now.
       

       
      Please note that where I have given Chinese names, these are the names most commonly around this part of China, but many variations do exist.
       
      Coming up next - the dried varieties available.
    • By liuzhou
      According to the 2010 census, there were officially 1,830,929 ethnic Koreans living in China and recognised as one of China’s 56 ethnic groups. The largest concentration is in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, Jilin Province, in the north-east bordering - guess where – North Korea. They have been there for centuries. The actual number today is widely believed to be higher, with some 4 to 5 thousand recent refugees living there illegally.
       
      Anyway, what I have just taken delivery of is this Korean blood and glutinous rice sausage from Yanbian. I am an inveterate blood sausage fiend and always eager to try new examples from as many places as possible. I'll cook some tomorrow morning for breakfast and report back.
       

       

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