Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Best Chinese Food in Austin, 2017 Edition


Once again for 2017, I've updated my guide to the best Chinese food in Austin for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance City Guide. Eating my mom's awesome Chinese food nearly every day while I was growing up means that I have very high standards when it comes to this category. Austin doesn't offer nearly the quantity or quality of Chinese restaurants as in other cities, but there are still many places here where you can find great Chinese cuisine.

CANTONESE

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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 plus 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 flavorful won ton soup, Peking duck (served with steamed buns rather than the traditional pancakes), orange beef, 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 has hosted their Lunar New Year banquet at New Fortune the last two years, and the food was great both times.

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.


SZECHUANESE

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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.


UPSCALE

In the last couple of years, hipper, younger restauranteurs have brought more modern versions of Chinese food to Austin. One such hot spot, Wu Chow (500 W. 5th St., Austin TX 78701), from C.K. Chin of Swift's Attic, offers dishes from all eight styles of Chinese cuisine. You pay a premium for the beautiful surroundings and the downtown location, but there are certainly circumstances that justify the extra expense.

Pork rib appetizer at Old Thousand
New to Austin this year is Old Thousand (1000 E. 11th Street, #150, Austin TX 78702), with the
slogan "Dope Chinese Food." Their menu offers a little something for everyone, and their flavors will please both traditionalists and those who seek something a little more contemporary. Full review here.

The old guard favorite in this category is 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). The first Chinatown restaurant opened in 1983, which I suspect makes it one of the longest-running restaurants in a dynamic and very competitive Austin restaurant scene. Like the others in this category, Chinatown's food tilts away from the traditional in many respects, but perhaps owner Ronald Cheng's penchant for keeping things fresh is what has kept his regulars coming back all these years.


NOODLES

Chinese handmade noodles are a beautiful thing. Here are my favorite spots in town to find them.

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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.

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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.

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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.



Julie's Handmade Noodles,
8557 Research Blvd., Ste. 110, Austin TX 78758 - this longtime fixture near UT campus, formerly housed in a food truck, transformed into a brick & mortar north of 183 this year. Expect generous portions made with love.


DIM SUM

Dim Sum at Wu Chow
Unfortunately, the field for dim sum in Austin is pretty small. 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). They don't have the traditional dim sum push carts, but that just means that everything arrives at your table freshly cooked. They have hands-down the best xiao long bao in town and are obviously using quality ingredients.

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). Full blog post about Chinatown's dim sum can be found here.

What's your favorite place in town for great Chinese food?




13 comments:

  1. A beautiful job you done there did, yessiree.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I appreciate your visiting and taking the time to leave a comment!

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  2. I had a class participant asking about Szechuanese food in Austin. I'm happy to steer him in your direction, here. Great guide!

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    Replies
    1. Many thanks, my friend!! Hope he finds a new favorite!

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  3. I'm salivating! There are a few places on this list I need to visit! Thank you for your thoughtful guide.

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    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks, Anita! Best research project ever. ;)

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  4. I Yearn for Wu Chow's Xao Long Bao! Thanks for this incredible guide to Austin
    s Asian food!

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  5. If you're willing to venture north, Sichuan Garden in Round Rock is a solid bet. Quality has gone up and down,but steady favorites are the spicy fish soup, spicy crispy chicken, green beans with crispy pork, and of course the small steam bun like dumplings (order when you sit down as they take about 10 minutes).

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    1. Thank you for the recommendation! I've been meaning to try Sichuan Garden and I will move it up my list, along with these dish suggestions! I could totally go for some green beans and crispy pork right now.

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    2. Wow,thanks for the recommendation! We weere Asia Café regulars but since moving to Round Rock it's been harder. I love Szechuan food so knowing that Sichuan Garden is there has made my day!

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  6. Very good list, covered all my favorites. One disagreement, I was extremely disappointed in Wu Chow. I thought their dim sum was barely mediocre (including the Xiao Long Bao) and the price/quality ratio was way off. Chen's, Ho Ho, and New Fortune are my top picks!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for visiting and for your thoughts! Is there somewhere else in town where you like the XLB?

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