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Marco Polo dim sum slipped HUGELY

I was there on Sunday. Their selections were limited, and nothing was more than tepid in temperature. They were not slammed, as they usually are, so people came around with almost ridiculous frequency, but I'm assuming they circulated with the same stuff for a ridiculous amount of time.

One of the servers asked if there was anything special we wanted - I requested siu mye, and was a little excited that it would be coming straight from the kitchen. When it came, it was barely warm, and it just wasn't that good. The noodle wrapper was flabby and tasteless, the meat was bland, and they were 1/2 the size of the ones I had last time at Marco Polo. Not that size is everything, but it might be an indication of some corner cutting.

The baked char siu buns were fine... flaky pastry, decent meat, but cold cold cold! The roasted duck had some decent hunks of meaty meat, but the skin wasn't crisp and most of the mound of pieces were bone and fat. We got something I have never gotten before - "sausage bun." Despite its resemblance to a crescent roll pig-in-a-blanket, I went for it because I love chinese sausage. Well, this was a bland, almost sweet yeast-raised bun wrapper around a plain old hot dog. Wow. Even the congee, which I love, was lacking in flavor, and severely lacking in pieces of preserved egg.

One dumpling, I think it was called "pork and leek" was great - nice noodle wrapper, loosely packed yet cohesive filling, the leek gave a great light herby/oniony counterpart to some downright juicy meat..very nice.

After a fairly sublime experience at T&S last month (for weekday lunch - not fair to compare cart and tray dim sum with cooked to order) this was a major flop. Ok, it was the first big flop since I started going there, but it was rough.

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  1. Man, that's too bad. I used to really love that place.

    These days when I crave a Sat/Sun Dim Sum brunch I can't seem not to go to T & S. It is just a better experience all around. I feel their selection is more diverse and I can't live without the Salt & Pepper shrimp.

    Thanks for the update. How's Tien Hong these days? Do you frequent? Any other Dim Sum in Austin you feel is worth mentioning? I haven't searched in a while, but I feel like there has to be at least one new Dim Sum choice out there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: looper

      Check out Pao's in Lakeway. It's to order, no cart. Not quite authentic Cantonese, more northern style. More roasted items, less steamed. Bigger dishes, too.

      It's actually my favorite dim sum, even above T&S.

    2. In case anyone missed these, here are some threads that contain helpful, specific suggestions by local 'hounds about their favorite things to order at dim sum:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/92954

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/340412

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/89761

      1. I think Golden Wok on I-35 & Parmer has great dim sum! I used to go to the one in San Antonio when I lived there and the shrimp sui mai is the best I've ever had. Even better than T & S. And their atmosphere is really nice, which to me always makes my meal a little more enjoyable. I'd highly recommend it!

        8 Replies
        1. re: nelgie123

          Very exciting! I thought I knew all the places that did dim sum in town: T&S, Pao's, Marco Polo, Tien Hong, Sea Dragon.

          Has anybody else been to Golden Wok for dim sum or otherwise? What style cuisine is it?

          1. re: Kent Wang

            I was put off by their "Pan-Asian" tag line...this appears to be a chain - San Antonio and Austin so far. I will try it before I give in to my prejudices...and I'm afraid I prefer the atmosphere at T&S to what I see in the pictures...

            So, I thought I knew all the places that did dim sum in town (T&S, Marco Polo, Tien Hong....sort of Pao's) and have never heard of or gone to Sea Dragon! I just googled it...it says it is Chinese-Vietnamese...please post a report...or at least a LINK to a report...?!?!?

            1. re: saticoy

              Since anyone doing a search of our new Austin board will only pull up the actual comments that we share here, why don't you check out Sea Dragon, saticoy, and post about it? Your observations are always very helpful.

              Best,
              MPH

              1. re: MPH

                Well, I was looking for guidance on whether I should expend the effort - your quest, MPH, is for every bite that goes in your mouth to be exquisite, right? I got my advice - thanks Kent Wang and Sambamaster. I love when reports list the poster's favorites, and I will take the list below and go to Sea Dragon...I may try a couple of dim sum items just to report on.

                1. re: saticoy

                  I only meant that if no one could or would report on Sea Dragon that I hoped you’d still check it out. At least we chowhounds could benefit from your experience.

                  My quest is for every bite that goes in my mouth to be exquisite. Unfortunately, I often sample first-hand the overhyped, the mediocre, and the god-awful in my pursuit of the delicious. Finding it, however, makes the journey worthwhile.

                  I'm glad other ‘hounds gave you some thoughts on what's delicious at Sea Dragon, and I look forward to your report!

                  Best,
                  MPH

                  1. re: MPH

                    Just a quick amen to MPH on "My quest is for every bite that goes in my mouth to be exquisite",here here.Intense deliciousness is why we are here
                    [on Chowhound]sometimes we stray and need to be led back to our quest but we will prevail somehow...and it might just be in a tarpaper shack on a riverbank in Mississippi eating catshead biscuits and fried catfish....who knows?

              2. re: saticoy

                Don't go to Sea Dragon! It is the worst dim sum I have ever had. It is true that I don't like Vietnamese foods, but the crappy dishes there were not Vietnamese but some other more obscure, not Cantonese, Chinese cuisine. I couldn't put my finger on it but I do know that I did not like it one bit.

                The worst was this steamed glutinous rice "burrito", in Cantonese dim sum this is usually filled with ground shrimp but this one was filled with peanuts and some other dreck.

                1. re: Kent Wang

                  Sea Dragon, is in fact, excellent Vietnamese, if you order correctly, as always. Maybe the Chinese side of the menu is not acceptable, but who goes to a Vietnamese place for Chinese when the Viet food is so good???? Come on. I say: Do go to the Sea Dragon!
                  I've been eating there since it opened around 1986, one of the first in Austin, Viet, I mean.
                  Faves include the goi cuon, their 3 to 4 components of Beef 7 Ways (i think they are on the app. menu) for which you must request the pineapple anchovie sauce...they will hesitate unless you are Vietnamese, but insist. Also the pork with ginger, the chicken with lemongrass and red pepper, the astonishingly good smoked duck with leeks, and a few great lamb dishes. Can't recall everything. But trust me, hit the right things at Sea Dragon and you'll be in culinary heaven.

          2. Whew - what a relief! I went today, and it was as good as it ever has been. Hot, fresh, tasty, and they had this cuttlefish special that knocked our socks off....thin slices of cuttlefish that tasted of rice wine and sesame...tender, cool and delicious.

            I hope this keeps up!

            3 Replies
            1. re: saticoy

              they are the only restaurant i know of that serves hainan chicken rice. yum yum.
              love their malaysian offerings.

              1. re: ripresa

                wait ripresa! HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE in Austin? Where??? :o)

                1. re: snowymt

                  The subject line of the original post names the restaurant!

                  Marco Polo
                  2200 S I H 35 (at Oltorf)
                  Austin, TX 78704

                  (512) 445-5563

            2. I'm glad to see the report that it was back in form -- never had the dim sum but love the Malaysian kung pao shrimp and last time, in early March, it was a bit disappointing and I haven't been back. Tried the lunch buffet once and it was nothing more than the usual greasy American-Chinese fare. They are so nice that I really want to give them another chance.

              1. Marco Polo is wildly inconsistent in general. It's reasonably close to where I live, and the lack of decent Chinese food in this town had me leaning on them for a while as my best local option. But I think I'm done with them after one too many bad meals. I have sometimes enjoyed their Singapore Noodles (which pale in comparison to Din Ho's), their Char Kway Teow (though sometimes it has this funky sausage in it, and sometimes not) their pan fried dumplings and others, but have had up and down experiences with everything.

                But the one time I went for Dim Sum it was positively horrible. I had a better experience at Tien Hong which is a horrible restaurant for lunch or dinner but had decent Dim Sum the one time I went for the Sunday cart experience.

                I've started going back to Wanfu Too for my dose of cheap Americanized Chinese food. I had for some reason stayed away (perhaps due to the uncoolness of the place itself, plus the relatively inconvenient location, plus the really bad (but ultimately substanceless) review in The Fearless Critic's Guide). I can at least rely on their "Szechuan" Beef and Sesame Chicken and such to be fairly tasty. It may be a million miles from authentic (Chinese people do eat at Marco Polo, which I do consider to be a very good sign) but compared to the variety of totally mediocre inauthentic Chinese joints in South Austin, it's probably my favorite.

                We need more good Chinese in this town!! Especially South!

                1 Reply
                1. re: tastegood

                  The best inauthentic Chinese I have had south is first china on south lamar by Chango's. It is super, way better than Wan-fu. I was disappointed with Marco Polo but I have been craving some Dim Sum and it looks like that is the only option in S.Austin

                2. I have a new favorite dim sum place in Austin and am nervous about telling everyone because it is already getting really crowded on weekends. I used to go to Marco Polo, but now the chef has changed and the food is not as good. These days I always go to Shanghai (on Middle Fiskville, at the intersection of I35 and 2222) which was started by the people who originally owned Marco Polo. It is clean, well run, great service, and the food is fantastic - great har gau,taro puffs, daikon cakes, baked pork buns, and best of all, delicious shiao long bao/Shanghai style soup dumplings with fresh ginger) . Get there on weekends before 1130 or there will be a line of Asian people that comes out the door and overflows into the parking lot.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mlin1

                    I love Golden Wok for Dim Sim. They have weekend cart service, but I perfer to order it from the menu during the week even if the selection is a bit more limited (fewer deserts and one or two other missing items). My favorite is the squid, which for the price is the best in Central TX. It's garlicy, but not too much and not watery at all like some other places. Other things that are good are the shimp sui mai, lin yeung bau, and the gin doil. The hubby likes the spare ribs (I'm not a big rib person) and especially enjoys any dish with the black bean sauce. T&S seafood is still my favorite, but Golden Wok is better if you're with people who perfer more Chinese-American food because they'll have something to eat also.