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An open letter to Din Ho, Austin: I love/hate you

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I love you: Your food is wonderful; almost as good as Sihn Sihn in Houston (and a similar selection).

I hate you: Your place is filthy with debris on the floor. Your service sucks (and one of your waiters messes with his ears way too much while on duty; how about sending him to a doctor?). The overworked (and too few) buspeople do not - and cannot - keep up with the pace of incoming diners at the evening rush, while your various family hangers-on sit around doing nothing. You get your orders wrong too often. Your manager is too absorbed in counting the cash in the till and does not pay attention to anything else going on. And you are cheap. Couldn't spare a few bucks for more soup spoons instead of having your customers wait for them to be washed?

You are fortunate that you have no competition in Austin; enjoy it while you can. If there was, I would happily forego the "pleasure" of dining in your dump. I truly love/hate you.

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  1. avi, i understand your feelings completely. but hey, don't worry. first chinese bbq (an outlet from a small 2 chain restaurant in richardson/carrolton) should have opened by now in the new chinatown center on n. lamar. i've never had a problem with their service or cleanliness and their food is better then din ho imho. i'm going to check it out sometime soon.

    3 Replies
    1. re: ktown378

      First Chinese BBQ is not open yet -- I dont even see a sign for it in the center. The only restaurant I saw open was something called Sweets Cafe which I didnt get a close look at. Does anyone have more info?

      1. re: ktown378

        Well, I just saw that the First Chinese BBQ sign is now up, but I don't have an ETA for the opening date. TC Noodle House looks like they are also picking up speed with their construction, so I imagine they will open first.

        1. re: Mike B

          Just went there the other day. Pretty good, great service, clean. Good food.

      2. The same can be said of T&S and Marco Polo. Really, only China Palace and Pao's Mandarin House have superior service amongst the traditional Chineser restaurants in Austin. Pao's, however, is in Lake Travis and China Palace's traditional menu is not quite as large as T&S or Din Ho.

        1. Din Ho appears to be attempting to upscale the place a bit lately so maybe someone is taking the complaints to heart? I think they also jacked up the menu prices.

          1. wow, it's not open yet? that's a shame. i asked them when i was visiting dallas, a couple of months ago, and they said they were opening in 2 weeks. i'll have to check back with them. thanks for the update

            2 Replies
            1. re: ktown378

              Let us know if you find out. TC Noodle House still looks to be a way off from opening as well.

              1. re: Mike B

                First Chinese BBQ is open. We went on Friday. It's clean and modernish and the staff is really friendly and nice. The duck we had was a little dry and maybe Din-Ho's is better. But we'll go again because it may just have been an opening day anomaly.

            2. ... just ate at First Chinese BBQ ... the BBQ Pork and Roast Duck (About $6 each) were very succulent though a little bland, the Seaweed/Tofu soup's seaweed ($5 for 4 servings) taste came through nicely without being overbearing. The Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce ($7) was good enough and not oily as is sometimes the custom. The soft wide rice noodle with beef dish ($7) was a bit awash in sauce and could have been woked a bit more.
              As to service: Not bad at all, though spotty as to the timeliness of drink refills and the broccoli and noodles arrivals at our table (later than we would have liked). The place is clean (!) but decorated in a nondescript pastel/chromish way. The room, as is, could just as easily serve to sell upscale clothing if the tables were removed ... It's a bit on the sterile side, actually.
              Value: $38 for four of us before the tip, including tea. Not bad.
              The menu seems extensive enough but does not feature any "unique" offerings - no "Eurekas" ... oh well. All in all, First Chinese BBQ lacks "atmosphere" and is nothing special (Which in itself is a disappointment). And if Din Ho cleans up its act, it might forestall its own doom after all. Go for it, Din Ho ... I'm rooting for you and am anxious to see you rise to the challenge.

              1. Hope the Din Ho owners take heed of the cleanliness messages. They need less stuff on the tables since 4 diners have to find a spot to move the condiment plate when all the dishes arrive.

                They should splurge on napkins...dinner size at least. Eating duck is a greasy proposition.

                And how about bigger pieces of tofu in the pork & greens soup?

                They do have great duck & BBQ pork! If only they'd offer plum sauce (Kowloon Brand) with the duck.

                BTW we discovered First Chinese BBQ. Their duck was as good- moist & didn't have the little shards of bone like DH's. While the BBQ Pork was juicy, Din Ho's sauce is better since they use honey & no food coloring. The Chicken w/Black Mushrooms, Snow Peas & Carrots was good. The mushrooms rocked. The waitstaff were very friendly, attentive & efficient in bussing the tables.

                When we saw the No Credit Card sign we figured we'd just get the to go menu but they do take personal checks.

                I thinks there's enough business & distance that they can compete w/DH. Hope they consider opening in south Austin by Costco.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Dynah

                  Went to First Chinese last night. Quite crowded but got seated rather quickly. Service rushed but friendly. Ordered the roast duck, BBQ pork and orange beef with Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce. Right here let me stop and announce that perhaps, not probably most assuredly,I need a lesson in good Chinese food. The roast duck was basically bone, gristle and fat, about 1/4 inch of it under the skin. We had a piece of neck about 3 inches long, perhaps a delicacly to the Chinese, and the leg piece was about 3 inches long with perhaps a teaspoonful of meat on it. The other duck pieces were from sources not identifiable to me, but contained about two tablespoonfuls of edible meat. I don't get it. I just didn't see all the stuff re: the duck that you and DR see. I was basically shards of bone (no actually more that shards) and other inedibles. BTW the orange beef was way overcooked and terribly tough and stringy with mainly a brown sauce. No orange flavor at all. Sorry, but I don't see that place and more than a one timer. Nice that everyone else had such good food. One thing to add as a correction. We ordered a combined plate of BBQ pork and roast duck so there wasn't a lot of duck to start with. NTL, the description above stands.

                2. You should get a bigger place so that you can get more people in. Your food is really good, but the wait is too long.

                  1. Interesting review of Din Ho vs First Chinese BBQ in today's Statesman (free login might be required):


                    1. C'mon guys - it's a Chinese restaurant! The chaos, the mess, and the negatives you guys have pointed out are part of the deal. It goes with the territory. Then again I'm a firm believer in the theory "the fewer non-Asians in a place the better it's going to be". Sorry, it's a hang-up I developed living in DCs Chinatown.

                      I personally love Din Ho and don't want to see it classed up. I like it when a pig carcass gets carried through the restaurant or when a waiter battles one of the enormous prehistoric crabs they have. I love the buckets of Hot & Sour soup. Don't wanna wait for a clean spoon? Bring your own. Don't want to wait for a table? Get it to go or don't go at peak hours.

                      The only change I would like to happen is I would like for there to be a super spicy dish.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: hooliganyouth

                        Thanks for the illumination. Your points are well made, and well taken...

                      2. I've been there several times and their dishes are just OK(too salty and too sweet, so American-Chinese). We went there on a Sunday evening just because we live very close and thought it would be a quick dinner. But it was so crowded we had to wait for about 10 minutes for a table. Another 10 minutes after we sat down, no waiter or waitress showed up, I had to wave the menu to a couple of waiters passing by and obviously they saw it. Still, no one came to even just offer some water or drink. Some kids on the next table were jumping up and down, two guys are two other tables use their cameras with flashes. It was so annoying we had to leave the restaurant. I briefly talked to the girl at the front and said I thank her for leading us to the table, she seems to have no problem with customer leaving and didn't even say sorry. Sure your restaurant is popular and crowded today, but we are still customers!

                        This is the worst experience I had in any restaurant in my whole life. I am Chinese and I love our food, but I would never go to Din Ho to dine in again! Their BBQ to go is OK though.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: hlhlhl

                          What's your favorite Chinese in town?