Just got home from an early dinner with a friend at Bistro 88, the pan-Asian spot on Bee Caves that has survived in a non-descript brown strip center for years. Walking in at 5:30pm, I think we were the first diners, but when we left around 7 pm, it was filling up nicely, especially for a Tuesday.
We decided to go with a bunch of small plates, and pretty much to share everything; we said it didn't matter what order things came out in. I started with a bowl of miso soup, which was a nice more medium-colored (and thus stronger flavored) miso, as opposed to the typical white miso that's usually used for the soup. My friend had one of their evening appetizer specials, blackened tuna in a crispy taco with a spicy aioli sauce. She said it was good, but not exactly blackened, more sashimi-style, and lots of lettuce.
Next up was the Pacific Roll, from their signature roll menu. It's sea bass that's is fried in tempura batter, cucumbers, and scallops with a spicy kick. Very fresh, very tasty. Nice combo of textures. They served huge pieces of the pickled ginger with it too, something I love! This was followed by the crispy tofu, which I don't see listed on their online menu. It was finger-length strips of tofu, fried very crispily, served "jenga" style, and with a light soy-ginger sauce. I really liked them, apparently more so though, than my friend.
The pan-seared pork dumplings were fine, but nothing spectacular. The last dish was the Thai Chile Soft Shell Crab, which when we ordered, our server asked us if we wanted it mild or spicy, and we opted for the spicy, which was his recommendation; thoughtfully, he also brought it out with the dumplings as the last dishes. It doesn't look terribly attractive... large piles of brown, with chile oil (grease?) on the plate. Some of it tasted good (it is fried, after all!), but overall, it was greasy.
Their dessert menu consists largely of non-Asian choices: chocolate mousse, key lime pie, creme brulee, cheesecake. They also offer sorbets, and after asking our server for the daily selection, picked the mango-orange. It was a lovely presentation, a hollowed out orange half, that had been filled with the very creamy sorbet and frozen; the plate had some swirls of raspberry sauce, a leaf (which turned out to be bamboo), and the orange on the plate.
Overall it was a nice meal, though not spectacular. It certainly helped to have a gift certificate from Restaurant.com. I would like to go back and try some of the entrees, like the ginger- miso sea bass, that they are apparently known for.
Well, certainly no style points on these photos (from the cell phone....). It's kinda hard to tell that that is the crab dish next to the dumplings.