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Aug 30, 2006 11:18 PM

Chinatown Center

I see from the Din Ho thread that some of the restaurants in the new Chinatown Center on North Lamar are starting to open. I visited the new MT Supermarket the other day, and it's quite impressive, but I haven't had a chance to try any of the restaurants. I thought maybe we could track what's open and what's good in a new thread.

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  1. As reported in the other thread, First Chinese BBQ has opened. If you are a fan of Din Ho, you should definitely check this place out. The menu is similar with a few variations. The food was quite good and reasonably priced. They were doing great business today after 1pm. Hopefully, we can enjoy a few weeks of relative quiet before they get written up in the Chronicle.

    Since it is new, the place is quite clean and the service was fast. Prices seem to be similar to Din Ho.

    The only other restaurant that I've seen that is open is the one with the words "Snack Shop" in the title. I haven't gone over to see what it is all about yet.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Mike B

      I agree completely with your assessment. Too bad they don't serve Peking duck.

      I wonder if they deliver.

      1. re: Kent Wang

        Could those of you who have tried First Chinese specify what you mean by "good food"? What did you have there? What did you like about it? How does it compare to other places in town? I want to know about the chow--I don’t care about sticky floors and hit-or-miss service unless I’m paying high prices.

        On the Din Ho thread, exnewyorker wrote that First Chinese's duck was drier than it is at Din Ho's, and hence, not as good. You can check that post out for yourselves here:

        1. re: MPH

          Well, First Chinese is most similar to Din Ho than to any other resturant in Austin. Lots of noodle dishes & soups, seafood, hot pots, and bbq (this is not an egg roll and buffet type place). I think this style of food is classified as Hong Kong Cantonese style, but I'm not an expert.

          First Chinese BBQ has the BBQ/roasting "to go" sales station right at the front of the restaurant where you can buy BBQ pork & duck to go. I didn't try the duck (not a huge duck fan), but I had the BBQ pork as part of an egg and rice dish.

          The BBQ pork, egg, and rice dish (kind of like an omlette over rice) was better than the Din Ho version. Din Ho's omlette is dry, but First Chinese uses a sauce that keeps the rice moist. The BBQ pork chunks were large and flavorful whereas Din Ho uses much smaller chunks in the same dish.

          The other dish I tried was the beef flat noodle with satay sauce (chow fun). This is my favorite dish at Din Ho, and the First Chinese BBQ version is good as well. I'll give Din Ho a slight win on this dish, but the sauces are almost identical. The only real difference is that First Chinese BBQ adds carrots and large chunks of white onion. Din Ho uses scallions and smaller chunks of onions.

          The menu is large, so there is lots of room to explore. I plan to go back and try a few more items this weekend.

          1. re: MPH

            I had a platter of roasted duck and BBQ pork. I do feel that those are items are drier than and inferior to Din Ho, especially the pork.

            Also had the platter of pork tongue, ear and stomach. The ear was superb, really soft and tender.

            Total after tax but before tip was $14. Enough meat for three people.

        2. re: Mike B

          Don't go late to FCB. Tonight they seated me about 10 minutes before closing time, then rushed me to order, came to the table while I was still eating and asked me to pay, so I had to go into my pockets with chicken fat and soy sauce all over my hands. I'd rather they had turned me away. Plenty of places down the road that stay open later. Food was good, though. Crispy chicken with lemongrass and gai lan with oyster sauce.


          1. re: Jim Washburn

            Hi Jim,

            I've noticed that same feeling at several asian restaurants - including Din Ho. It seems as if the policy is that closing time means "time to get the hell out" instead of closing time meaning "get your order in before this time, but stay and finish your dinner."

            Anything else open in Chinatown center?

            1. re: rudeboy

              At the risk of continuing a conversation about service rather than chow, I've got to say that the "my shift ends at closing time" phenomenon seems to depend more on the experience of the management and employees than on the type of food they serve. You'll not be surprised that it extends to employees even outside the food service industry.

              I remember one night when T&S Seafood made a pair of us feel very welcome as we ordered plenty of food and stayed well past closing time.

              On the other hand, I've been in taco joints, country-cooking reastaurants, and sandwich shops where the employees decide that they are leaving at (or before) closing time and have no compunction about putting chairs on tables and closing down part or all of the kitchen well before the posted close of business. I've also been rushed to pay in lots of restaurants just because there were people waiting or because of a poorly handled shift-change. For great chow, I'll maintain a thick skin, and gradually a restaurant tends to learn a bit.

              An obligatory chow point: The food at T&S that we were served at or after closing time was fresh, had full flavor, and was well prepared. Does the quality hold up at Din Ho or FCB when you are eating at closing time, or does the chef start to take shortcuts the way the service staff you've experienced seems to?

              1. re: rudeboy

                TC Noodle House is open. I tried it twice this past week. All the dishes were disappointing. I wrote a short review over on eGullet. I might give it one more chance to try to find that diamond in the rough dish, but i don't have very high hopes.

                I also visited Lily's Sandwich shop specializing in Vietnamese sandwiches and snacks. The grilled pork Banh Mi pales in comparison to Pho Van's version, and I don't have the desire to try it again. However,their Cafe Sua Da may be the best I've had in town. They also have spring rolls and a few noodle dishes (not pho) but I didn't try them.

                1. re: yimay

                  Yimay, I was at the supermarket there today also, on my way to the record convention....picked up a jar of what appears to be very good broad-bean chile sauce from Pixian (Sichuan)...i.e., the real deal...can't give a brand name since it's in Chinese, sorry (i can shoot a photo in about 10 days when my camera gets back from Spain!)...but the broad bean pieces are mostly clean halves. and chiles are big chunks also; look in the jarred sauce section you will probably find's high on the shelf. pretty yummy, i eat it with a spoon!!!! can't wait to cook with it. also got some chinese leeks I will cook with bacon. yummy...

                  i'm including this so this post doesn't get thrown out as OT, sinced all the restaurants in this center are getting mostly poor reviews, should we look forward to the new Asian super center the folks from the Hong Kong mkt are building on 35, somewhere near Louis Henna, I think??? Anyone know its location? Maybe they will have better choices like another Sunflower, etc.

                  also, will post more Asia Cafe comments, this place really rocks...or should I say, in my case, really sambas!!!!???

                  1. re: sambamaster

                    I will check out the broad bean chile paste!

                    The new Hong Kong market is going to be near the Dell campus on north I-35 at Parmer Lane and Harris Ridge Blvd. And unlike the rumors we've been hearing, the original Hong Kong market next to Target on 183 will not be closed when the new one opens.

                    I hope to God someone opens a Chinese bakery!

          2. Really nice to know! Do you know if they take credit cards?

            2 Replies
            1. re: Nakhash

              Wow, thanks for reminding me. They take cash only, and they don't have a sign outside that tells you! I hope they put an ATM machine nearby.

              1. re: Mike B

                Thanks so much! We just wanted to be sure before we went. I tend not to carry much cash anymore.

            2. can anyone please let me know what the address is for First Chinese BBQ, i'm new to the area from California and am looking for good chinese food. Din Ho is pretty good, just looking for other options. Thanks!

              2 Replies
              1. re: angiex117

                10901 N. Lamar Blvd. in the Chinatown Shopping Center. It is near the grocery store on the left hand side (when you are entering from Lamar)

                The shopping center is just south of Braker.