Chinatown Austin reviews?
So the new Chinatown Austin center finally seems to be really coming to life:
Any reviews of the food spots there?
- M.T. Supermarket
- Com Chi Food to Go
- First Chinese BBQ Restaurant
- Lily's Sandwich
- Pho Saigon Noodle House
- Short N Sweet Café
- TC Noodle House
- Wok on Fire
I visted MT Supermarket right after it opened, and while I was impressed with the size and freshness of the various items, I was hoping for a wider variety (rather than just large quantities). I'll have to give it another try soon.
First Chinese: great in a pinch, if in that area. i've only eaten there a few times but most dishes are comparable to din ho's, but i still prefer din ho's bbq (char siu pork especially) to first though.
Lilys' Sandwich: their pork bahn mi is sad. pho van (formerly cong ly) still has the best pork bahn mi in the city i think. but they have wonderful ice coffee (cafe sua da)!
TC Noodle House: stay away. my rant on egullet here:
TC Noodle House: I agree, stay away.
First Chinese: If you don't feel like fighting the crowds at Din Ho, this is a good option. The char siu was good as were the pan-fried noodles, but the crab with black bean sauce was a waste of time.
Short and Sweet: A better value than Changos. I like that they have a of dried foods in addition to their drinks. They also have a small menu of non-drink items.
Pho Saigon: Not bad, but not great. I only had the spring rolls which contained the usual char siu, vemicelli noodles and shrimp. The char siu really pale and the rolls were not as tasty as those from Tan-Tan. The sauce they came with was a peanut based sauce and much better than the plum sauce that comes with spring rolls at Triumph Cafe. My friends said the pho was decent, but not spectacular and the egg rolls and vermichelli bowl was ok. The egg rolls were too greasy in my opinion.
Short and Sweet: Try the mango smoothie.
Well, as excited as I was for this center to open up, I have to admit to being a bit disappointed overall. It is great for Austin to get more variety in the Asian food department, but the quality in these new choices is lacking.
Here is the rundown on the places I've tried:
++ First Chinese BBQ Restaurant : This is my favorite place in the center, but it's not without its share of problems. The reason I keep coming back is that I'm addicted to chowfun, and First Chinese BBQ does a competent version of this dish -- second only in Austin to Din Ho, but it isn't worth the extra drive for me to go to Din Ho to get it.
My advice at 1st Chinese BBQ: Stick with the noodle and rice dishes. Most of the non-noodle items I've ordered have turned out to be a letdown. Whatever you do, don't order any of the tradional American-style Chinese food dishes here. These are probably the worst things on the menu.
As far as the BBQ goes, Austin 360 claims this is the new winner in town, but I would still lean towards Din Ho. The BBQ Pork at 1st Chinese does make a decent mixin for their rice and noodle dishes that use it.
Consistency is a bit of a problem at 1st Chinese. My favorite dish, beef flat noodle with satay sauce, has been delivered with vastly different seasoning and vegetable mix from order to order.
re: Mike B
i'll admit that i've only been to 1st chinese in the chinatown center once, but it was enough for me to never go back again. for starters, the restaurant host asked us if we wanted to share a table with another couple because the restaurant was crowded. it's not much to ask, but a host should always figure out the layout of the restaurant and seat accordingly. the flavors were just incorrect, and my girlfriend and i (both children of chinese immigrants) were turned off by the food. i honestly forget the english name for what she ordered, but it's roughly translated to oil chicken noodles, and it was awful. the cuts given were detritus, and the broth while hot, was bland and too oily (there is a careful balance that must be maintained). my wonton noodles were passable, but once again the flavor and quality was subpar.
while i read the dale rice article about 1st chinese bbq vs. din ho, i completely disagree with him. while din ho's quality may have slipped a bit in the years that i've been going there (the last few trips have been especially mediocre), 1st chinese bbq has a ways to go to match the quality and flavor that din ho provides.
++ Lily's: This place is a bit maddening. I tried to go so many times during their first month of operation only to be turned away by long, ultra-slow lines or lack of ingredients (chicken, bread, BBQ pork!). When I finally managed to get a couple sandwiches, it turned out not to be worth the trouble. Do not make a special trip for these sandwiches, but if you work nearby and want a cheap lunch, they will do. They average about $2.50 each, and I need two of them to fill up, so $5 for lunch isn't bad.
The service is still confused and slow here. I get the feeling that this is the first restaurant for the owners of Lily's since they seem to be struggling with how to setup a decent process.
Be prepared, Lily's uses jalapenos liberally.
++ Com Chi Food to Go
I only tried this place once. It is setup similar to a Panda Express or mall style Chinese restaurant. You can pick 3 items from a buffet style setup for about $5. The owners are very nice, but the food wasn't. The items I had were bland or overcooked or both.
Maybe I had a bad experience here, but I am hesitant to try it again.
Pho Saigon Noodle House & TC Noodle House both left very little impression with me. I've been once to each of them, and my food was passable but nothing I would normally return for.
Looks like a new restaurant, Wok on Fire, is opening soon next to Short n' Sweet cafe.
re: Mike B
Went to Lily's last Friday when in search of a cheap lunch (had remembered "even" recommendations....not fab not bad from the board). The service is still very confusing and not well put together. Despite the fact that I had been standing there ready to order, the two men working the counter overlooked me (I wasn't hiding or anything) to put together an order for a woman that walked in. Once through with her order, they finally turned to me, with no apology. I ordered the BBQ Pork Bahn Mi (#4 on the menu). I told them #4 once. Somehow, this translated to 4 #4's. The man rang me up and asked for $12 dollars. After correcting the misunderstaning, they wrapped up one of the sandwiches for me and charged me the proper price ($2.50). I also grabbed an unlabeled tapioca and headed for home. The bahn mi was tasty. The bread was a nice chewy baguette, lots of veggies (and yes too many jalapenos for my taste but easily removed), and decent pork. The meat had a nice flavor but there was a little more gristle than I am accustomed to at other places (Tam's). However, for the proce and proximity (less than a mile from home), I'll probably go back. The worst part though was the tapioca. I could barely choke down more than a bite or two. It was still warm, and I'm guessing "freshly" made, but ill prepared. It tasted of a mix that hadn't been properly dissolved. The pearls were mushy, and the flavor was the weakest excuse for vanilla that I have ever had. Next time I'll grab the cheap bahn mi and then try out the Short and Sweet Cafe next door to curb my sweet tooth.
Co-workers and I have eaten at the following places there and here is my feedback:
1) First Chinese BBQ - the BBQ pork lo mein is awesome, very nice light noodles and not the thick greasy kind found in fast food chinese places. Lemon Grass Crispy Chicken awesome. The BBQ Pork appetizer is very good.
2) Lily's Sandwiches - pretty good Bahn Mi, very cheap, I guess I like Tam Deli a little better. Although a lot of people always say that Pho Van is the best, but you know, we're talking about a sandwich here, so they all taste pretty much the same to me
3) TC Noodle House - not very good. We all got variations on the rice noodle soup, and the brother was not very good and the ingredients could have been fresher
3) Pho Saigon Noodle House - I like it very much, nice charcoal grilled pork on my Bun and they got the vermicelli noodles right. So many times I get a bowl of Bun and the noodles are overcooked and that totally ruins it. These were perfect. Comes close to my fave of Pho Van, co-worker swears that Pho Huang is the best.
i haven't had a tam deli banh mi in a few years now, but here was my review of their banh mi when i first tried it, which i didn't like as much as pho van's (formerly cong ly). there is a BIG difference in my opinion.
below: cong ly's/phot van's (1st) banh mi vs. tam deli's (2nd)
First is ok; I don't see much of a difference b/t there and Din Ho since I'm extremely picky about my Chinese food (having grown up in Houston and all ^-^) and neither one really satisfies my expectations.
Thanks for the warning about TC, I was going to try it out...not anymore.
I prefer First Chinese BBQ over Din Ho. Most of the dishes are average or better than average (by Austin standards). I noticed that Din Ho cooking is more oily/greasy than I'm accustomed to, but this can also be related to the fact that it's Cantonese style. I believe First is also Cantonese style, but I don't seem to notice the oil so much. The wait staff has always been really attentive and helpful on my visits.
I've only been to TC once and don't plan on going back. Again, maybe it's just that I'm not familiar with their style of cooking. I ordered a curry chicken noodle dish, and it was like nothing I'd ever seen before. The chicken pieces seem to have come from all over the chicken, as opposed to just the leg, breast, or thigh. The wait staff wasn't bad. It was only slightly awkward for me and my guest because we had sat down for maybe a minute, and our waiter had come by to ask if we were ready to order about 4 times in that one minute.
We like Din Ho slightly better than First Chinese, though we are Dallas hounds and our experience with First Chinese is based on the original one in Richardson (which is the best Chinese restaurant in DFW IMO--I like Cantonese).
We agree First Chinese's BBQ pork lo mein is good. Their BBQ pork is ok, not the best. (Haven't tried BBQ pork at Din Ho yet). We like Yan Chow Friend Rice at both restaurants.