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Jan 17, 2008 09:55 AM

Asia Cafe better than ever!

You Austin 'hounds have been very bad. I've been away since April and there's been very little said about this amazing Chinese joint. I've just driven in from Wichita and am typing this from Asia Cafe. Damn, it's even better than my taste memory allowed! I now see 20-30 items on the three white boards, finally translated and many seem to be newish since I had a pretty good idea what was on them back in April. I just ate a yummy dish of garlic shoots with twice cooked pork. Heaven on a plate! Perfectly cooked pork belly, amazingly seasoned with chilies, sichuan peppercorns, black beans, etc. the garlic shoots looked like green beans at first, but were likewise perfectly cooked with an extremely mild flavor. I've had a dish with this name before and leeks were used instead of garlic. I like that version also.

I'm back in town for Carnaval which is gearing up, and already have 3 meals planned here between now and sunday! so will report on more new dishes as I add even more pounds and inches.

You all have been holding back! Ya should have kept us all up to date on all these amazing new offerings. I'm gonna have to look like Jed Clampett in NYC staring up at the buildings trying to read and absorb all these, since most appear not to be on the printed menu which i imagine also has some new things.

So stay tuned, and feel free to chime in with more recent experiences and recs.

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  1. Hey, sambamaster, welcome back. I've made a post somewhat recently about the new menu translation. It happened during the holidays a few weeks back and I reported on the garlic shoots with shredded pork and yes it was quite good. There's another great new dish (again new to English people at least): spicy cumin beef or something like that. It's the water boiled beef coated with cumin and it was wonderful.

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      1. Who's gonna spring for the duck tongues? :)

        1. can u tell me where its it better than din ho ot t&s.

          10 Replies
          1. re: nytexan

            this is the best chinese in CenTex hands down. sw corner of 183 and spicewood springs. i'll be there again today at 11.30 for more lunch. and tomorrow for early dinner. not sure about the tongues. my own is rough and difficult enough!
            but my mouth is watering for the water boiled beef (hot and spicy beef, correct?) and about everything else on the menu. the dumplings! i saw people eathing them yesterday and it was all i could do to prevent myself from grabbing one off their plates!!!
            after Carnaval, i'll be heading to NYC for a week or two and will hang out in the real chinatown in flushing where there are some amazing sichuan and other regional joints.

            1. re: sambamaster

              Hey - I just got back from Asia Cafe. We were sitting over by where the boxes are near the side entrance to the kitchen. I didn't see water boiled beef - we got cumin beef, which was very spicy with a great cumin kick. Since there were new people with me, we went straight and had the green beans, Taiwanese noodle, and spicy fish to go along with it. We all agreed that it was a great lunch......

              1. re: rudeboy

                The water boiled beef is called spicy beef on the menu. Glad you enoyed the cumin beef. It's an exciting "new" addition.

                1. re: Carter B.

                  i think it is "spicy beef filet" . will try the cumin beef. usually sichuan joints use lamb for the cumin dishes. muslim/n chinese influence. AC has a spicy lamb dish that is really good. and might be better with a dash of cumin. highly recommended anyway.

                  back tomorrow!
                  when i was there today, even the chef said, long time, no see!!! cool to be missed!

                  1. re: sambamaster

                    What did you have yesterday, and where were you sitting?

                    We've had "spicy beef" a few times.....while that is really good, the cumin beef was exceptional, and even more spicy. I'm interested in the lamb dish, and I'm even going to try the duck tongue when I get a chance. I like the fact that the menu says "Duck Tongue (boneless)." I didn't realize that there were bones in tongues of any species.

                    1. re: rudeboy

                      There's another item that says "boned", which I think actually means has bones.

                      1. re: rudeboy

                        well, went again today with the artist for the carnaval posters. he loved it. we had the cumin beef and it was good, but the spicy beef has more depth of flavor, more layers, more complexity. we had the "cooked" pork with special garlic sauce and it was the highlight. that sauce is amazing. lots of sesame overtones and nice garlic flavors... the spicy wontons were nice too.
                        had a nice exchange with the young woman at the counter and had her talk to the chef, who came out to greet me, about making some sichuan spicy peanuts, and a sichuan dish called flower tofu. he's agreed, so we'll see. also requested he pickle more long beans for that great dish of pickled long beans with ground pork...they were out tonght. think i've established a nice rapport with them both. probably back tomorrow.

                        1. re: sambamaster

                          somehow, didn't make it in on sunday, big disappointment, but, before heading back to Wichita for a couple of days, had to stop in Monday for a quick lunch fix. Had the twice cooked "homemade Sichuan" sausage. Right on! The sausage is composed of largish chunks of meat and fat, nothing machine ground i'm certain. The flavoring of the sausage is nice, maybe a hint of clove, maybe something similar. Need to have it again to confirm, there were so many things going on in the dish which is not unlike the twice cooked pork with garlic shoots i had on Thursday. Oh, and there seems to be a hint of sweetness to the meat. I'll eat this again, but so many other newish things before I get back to it. the chef has promised to do some special requests when i get back on wednesday or thursday. will report on those at that time. can't wait. in the meantime, i'll hit up the ultra funky Lao joint I've uncovered in Wichita...the white folk here don't wanna venture in, but it's the best SE Asian in town. Check my posts on the MidWest boards for that if you are ever in the area.

                          1. re: sambamaster

                            samba - did you get any special requests on that Wednesday? I'd love to hear about them. I may be in Wichita in mid March. If so, I'll definitely find the Lao joint and follow up on Midwest.

              2. re: nytexan

                It's a different animal from Din Ho and T&S. It specializes in sichuan chinese, whereas Din Ho is well-known for its barbeque and T&S for good Americanized and Cantonese Chinese.

              3. We had dinner here tonight (Sunday) and it was packed. I tried the newly translated Sichuan shrimp kebab--the lady warned there will be shells and I said go for it. After our longest delay in food ever (25 minutes?), the shrimp arrived each on skewer and covered in a dry, red "rub". About 9 large shrimp total and it was pretty tasty but I don't usually enjoy eating shrimp shells on such large shrimp so it wasn't my favorite. Otherwise we had some of our usual favorites of ma po tofu and baby bok choy. Also, as a note, the lady confirmed something that we've slowly determined--the corn kernals with green peppers is no longer on the menu.

                2 Replies
                1. re: Carter B.

                  I had a couple of new non-menu dishes recently.

                  Translucent noodles with ground pork were somewhat spicy rice noodles with a small amount of pork and chiles. Might be okay as a side dish but nothing to seek out.

                  I also tried the the "Steamed Pork (Bacon)" option. Man, what a misnomer. This is some sort of breaded bacon dish with potatoes in the a spicy chile oil sauce. It came out in this huge mound of spongy dough with slices of bacon (or probably pork belly) mixed in as well as some boiled potatoes wedges at the bottom. Other than the red chiles this seemed more like something I'd eat at an Ethiopian restaurant. No matter, this was one porky and tasty dish as you might imagine. Highly recommended.

                  1. re: Carter B.

                    CarterB, you had Ants Climb a Tree, the noodle dish...their version needs more pork and also a handful of chopped scallions...that would perk it's really a good dish when done correctly. my son grew up on it...he loved the name. That steamed pork dish is really interesting, totally unlike anything else (except the steamed pork chops with ground rice, can't recall the name, I posted about it in Sept or Oct of 2006...actually pieces of pork ribs steamed).

                    Things the Maestro has made for me include "flower tofu" and Sichuan spicy peanuts...a traditional snack item best with beer. Both were great. Will try to get him to do the tofu at the "gathering" on Wednesday.

                    Had the pickled long beans with ground pork today, and the "twice cooked" handmade sichuan sausage. both amazing. no, friggin' amazing. He makes the sausage there and it is so yummy.

                    more later
                    Mr. SM