My butcher friend who likes the entrails and innards of just about all animals has spoken highly of Ho Ho Chinese BBQ for those very things. While I tend to like the more traditional cuts of meat, I of course, am always on the lookout for new tasty morsels. So a reunion with three old friends took us a ways north of the south Austin 'hood to IH-35 and Parmer Lane, in the middle of strip mall central. And I think Ho Ho is about the only thing that isn't a national chain (Walmart, Red Robin, etc.) in that neck of the woods. But it is without hesitation that I say I am glad we stuck our necks out to venture up 35. Ho Ho is heavenly.
The exterior of the building fits in with the rest of the strip mall (or "road rash" as my mother and I call it) design. When you walk inside, I immediately was drawn to the water tanks on the right hand side of the lobby area that are holding tonight's very fresh meals -- lobster, crabs, geoducks, and some sort of fish that would be well-camouflaged if it were amongst rocks. The tanks were impeccably clean. Nothing growing on the walls, and hardly even a fingerprint smudge. And to the left of the door is the requisite plexiglass booth with whole roast ducks hanging by the neck, and the man with a very large cleaver whacking away at things. (Darn, I couldn't get the cleaver really in the picture -- he was working fast! The chunk hanging on the right is the roast pork; I really wanted to grab it and run out the door!)
We were seated in a booth, and all four of us started oohing and aahing over the menu, our eyes growing bigger with excitement with the turn of every menu page. After a lot of "Oh! What about....." we picked the bbq pork and roast duck combo plate (#M27), the sauteed snow pea leaves (#V8), and the wide flat rice noodles with beef, pork, and shrimp in a brown gravy (#N12). Our charming server, a man in his 50s, was very patient with us, and as we were debating order an appetizer or the roast pork in addition to what we had already committed to, he smiled and said, start with these three, then see how you are feeling. Very nice that he didn't just stand there and let us order a ton of food just to run up the tab.
To myself, I sort of lamented not getting an appetizer, because I was hungry! Lo and behold, the pork/duck and snow pea leaves arrived in five minutes, and the noodle dish came two minutes later. And we swooped in on it all! The pork had a very lovely red tinge to it's outer layer, with sweet tones with mild ginger from the bbq glaze on it. The duck was one of the most lovely ever. Very crispy, extremely well-rendered skin, with a Chinese 5 spice taste to it (star anise, clove, cinnamon, sichuan peppercorns, and probably more ginger than fennel seed as the fifth spice). The pea leaves had thin slivers of fresh garlic sauteed in with them, and they were perfectly cooked, with stems still slightly firm.
The noodle dish was this mound of sliced meats, cabbage and broccoli over the very wide rice noodles, which are hard to manage with chopsticks! I would have liked more flavor in the gravy, though a bit of chili flakes and oil helped; still tasty though. The four of us made pretty short work of the dishes, and all the while, the servers refilled our water glasses, and seemed to be peering over at us to see if we liked our choices. You better believe it! Our gentleman waiter brought us orange slices and fortune cookies with the check. And the check itself.... $30.25 for four people. For that quality food in a sit-down restaurant (heck, even better priced than some trailers), you CAN'T beat it.
The next day, I saw my butcher friend, and told him I had been to Ho Ho's the night before. He asked if we had eaten the roast pork, and when I said no, we had the bbq pork, he said you HAVE to go back for it, because the texture of the roast pork, especially the outer crispy layer is sheer perfection. Must go back. ASAP!