Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Asian Dining in Austin: Five Places

I am a big admirer of all types of Asian cuisine, which is fitting as I am half Japanese. Some friends and have have our Asian Supper Club where we try new places or happily go to an old standby such as Sunflower Vietnamese.  Here's a look at five "new to me" places that I have been in the past six weeks, one with the Asian Supper Club!

Fat Dragon, 8650 Spicewood Springs Road
At the intersection of Hwy 183 and Spicewood Springs is a large strip mall on the southwest corner that is probably is the most diverse in all of Austin. Looking at restaurants alone, you've got Asia Cafe, Chen's Noodles (two of my faves) and a bunch I haven't been to: Uzbeki, Nepalese/Indian, Cajun, Mexican and cupcake place. You gotta love Fat Dragon for its logo alone! They opened over the summer and I was there in October. Overall, we loved it and I really look forward to going back. (WHY are you so far away from me?!)
Fat Dragon Austin
Cute little dragon!
Fat Dragon Austin pork belly bun
Pork belly bun or gua bao; very meaty portion of pork which was well-rendered and nice + crisp.
Fat Dragon Austin green beans
Dry-fried green beans, always a favorite.
Fat Dragon Austin lamb dumplings
Lamb cilantro dumplings. These were amazing, and I would probably love them even more by ordering them pan-fried next time. I love lamb and I don't think I have ever had a lamb dumpling. I want a LOT of these right now! Have heard from a friend that the lamb cumin dumplings there are also incredible. (Pork, chicken, beef and vegetarian ones also on the menu.)
Fat Dragon Austin soup dumplings
Soup dumplings or xiao long bao. They apologized when bringing these out to us and said the dough was too thin, so they had already torn and the soupy liquid had mostly leaked out. (They did bring us some egg rolls for the trouble.)
 They did TASTE good though.

Het Say,
2121 E. Oltorf Street
In another strip mall (between Burton + Willow Creek, a couple blocks west of Pleasant Valley) is Het Say, which opened in August 2017. The gentleman that brought out most of our dishes said he was the owner and many of the recipes were his grandmother's.  While the majority of the menu is Vietnamese, there are some Thai and Singapore noodle dishes and Chinese appetizers available. The stars of the show were the Vietnamese home style dishes under house specials.

Het Say Austin pork vermicelli bowl
Grilled pork bún (vermicelli) bowl. The pork had really good flavor but was a touch dry.

Het Say Austin pork  belly bun
Another pork belly bun!  This one wasn't as meaty as the one at Fat Dragon, but still good.

Het Say Austin chicka-rones fried chicken skins
Chicka-rones, or fried chicken skins! Fairly crispy, some had bits of meat still attached to the skins.
 I think I liked these more than others in our group. 

Het Say Austin banh mi
Bánh mì sandwich

Het Say Austin lemongrass tofu vermicelli
Lemongrass tofu vermielli

Het Say Austin braised pork belly
Braised pork belly, in a clear broth made from coconut juice, ginger, fish sauce and spices.
Het Say Austin braised catfish
Braised catfish, with a similar broth as above but with more of a ginger kick that I LOVED! The catfish is bone-in which makes it a little difficult to eat but the nourishing broth was so worth it. Can't wait for this on a cold day.

Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, 1203 W. 6th Street
Open since February, Lin operates out of an old house on the south side of W. 6th, and seeks to be a more health-conscious Chinese restaurant. I loved the look and decor of Lin, and enjoyed sitting at the counter overlooking the kitchen.
Lin Asian Bar interior
From the counter looking back to the front door and bar.
Lin Asian Bar interior
Private dining room to the side of the kitchen that would comfortably seat 8 - 10 people.
 I loved the wooden screen doors and peeked through one of the openings. 

Lin Asian Bar wine
A glass of Riesling went well with this meal.  I have a Boomerang of the ladies making shumai
 but I can't figure out how to post it here!
Lin Asian Bar soup dumplings
Shanghai soup dumplings -- these had more of a vinegary taste than what I have had with
 soup dumplings before which was a little unexpected for me. 
Lin Asian Bar dan dan noodles
Dan dan noodles -- I really enjoyed the peanut sesame sauce, but the noodles themselves were overcooked. 
Lin Asian Bar eggplant
This eggplant dish was one of our favorites on the night. However it's not on their online menu and can't remember the exact description; I believe it was with ground venison, pork, and beef. Long thin strips of Asian eggplant were coiled together and topped with the sweet sauce containing the meat.
Lin Asian Bar Hawaiian Sesame Chicken
Hawaiian Sesame Chicken with grilled pineapple. This one was a bit of a let down, as the sauce was overly sweet and the pineapple was used more as decor rather than as part of the dish.  The chicken was fried well though.
Lin Asian Bar salt and pepper tofu
Salt and pepper tofu, my favorite of the night. This came out screaming hot and was hard to eat at first! Nice crisp outer layer gave way to pillowy silken tofu. Very nice with a little of the eggplant sauce too.
Lin Asian Bar red lanterns
Laterns on the front porch.

Umi Sushi, 5510 S. IH-35 (northwest corner of 35 + Stassney)
I've long heard good things about Umi but had never made it there. A friend and I made it for happy hour, where a variety of items are on special.
Umi Sushi sashimi
Tuna, salmon, and yellowtail sashimi
Umi Sushi tempura
Shrimp and veggie tempura; the tempura batter was a bit heavier than what I am accustomed to,
but we both liked it! Very crunchy. 

Umi Sushi kani puffs and chicken skewers
Kani puffs (imitation krab eggrolls, more or less) and sesame chicken skewers.

Umi Sushi spicy crab roll
Spicy crab roll

Umi Sushi crunchy shrimp hand roll
Crunchy shrimp hand roll 
We were seated on the bar side of the restaurant, which was pretty much your stereotypical bar decor. But the main restaurant had some beautiful kimonos and other Japanese decorations; I'd love to go back for a full meal.

DFG Noodles trailer, various locations
AKA Dang Freakin' Good Noodles, I caught up with this trailer for lunch one recent weekday. Check their website for where to find them.
DFG Noodles Golden Nuggets
The Golden Nuggets, fried chicken with sambal chile sauce. Looking back at their menu,
 I think this was supposed to be over their Firecracker rice, but this was straight white rice. Hearty serving for $9.

DFG Noodles the Scholar
The Scholar -- vermicelli noodles with pork, ham, fried egg and more! Very tasty. 

DFG Noodles curry sauce
Now the curry sauce that came with the roti bread was incredible. Our group ended up with two containers of curry, one a bit spicier than the other, but not majorly so. I ended up taking the leftover sauce home and made chicken empanadas with it. The sauce on it's own is not the most photogenic, but trust me, it had great depth of flavor!
So there's my recent tour of Asian spots around town. What are your favorite Asian dishes and places to go?