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Asia Cafe better than ever!

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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.

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

      1. can u tell me where its located.is 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 up...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

              2. Could someone fill me in on this spicy lamb dish? How is it and what is it like? Any bones to deal with?

                7 Replies
                1. re: brattpowered

                  I came real close to ordering it for lunch today, but opted for the frog legs instead. The frog legs were excellent - they were cooked with the traditional salt/szechuan pepper and the bits of jalapeno and garlic. And while this is more of a tried and tru combination of flavors, it really wored with the frog legs. They were very tender, and took the light batter coating perfectly.

                  Now I need to get that sausage!

                  1. re: brattpowered

                    I've had the spice lamb dish twice. The meat is sliced fairly thin, small pieces, no bones. It's pretty good.

                    1. re: robbie6805

                      Holy Crap the cumin beef is outstanding. It's a lot like the "velvetized" morsels you get in a good chinese mongolian beef preparation. Not sure if they velvetize or not, but the outcome is the same - a sort of melt in your mouth tender morsel of beef strip. But in this case it's sort of sauteed in a cumin/red pepper laden coating that is just out of this world. WOW. what a great new dish, thanks fellas for that find.

                      1. re: slowcoooked

                        One question, is this the "Stir Fried Beef w/Cumin Sauce" I see on the online menu or is it an off menu item? I hope to finally make it to Asia Cafe. I can't believe it's been right there all this time, and I haven't been. People at work aren't the most adventurous, so I will have to head out on my own. I am still trying to figure out what I will order.

                        1. re: angthefoodie

                          For your first time you should get the spicy fish filet. You will then order it the next 5 or so times you go; this is not a bad thing. Eventually you will try some other things on the menu, most of which are just as good.

                          1. re: angthefoodie

                            angthefoodie, yes, that's it. it's divine.

                            1. re: angthefoodie

                              Yes, I belive that's the item on the menu now (it was spelled a bit different when it was only on the whiteboard).

                      2. As this is the most recent thread, I'll share a recent delicious find. The pan-fried shrimp with crushed pepper is very good. About a dozen or so shrimp fried in a crunchy batter and coated with a generous dusting of salt, red pepper, and garlic. It's served on a bed of stir-fried veggies - green & red pepper, carrots, water chestnuts, and peapods - that look like a pretty boring garnish. But the veggies were dressed in a little of that wonderful chile oil and had an amazing flavor. Nice change of pace from the spicy fish.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mkwng

                          I think that's the one I will start with-I like shrimp better than fish, I am considering the spicy fish filet as suggested. When I finally get a chance to leave the building for lunch-I will report back.
                          Thanks for the help!

                          1. re: mkwng

                            I just tried the shrimp a few days ago but didn't see any type of batter plus I didn't realize that the shrimp were peeled for this dish. Also the vegies were extremely skimpy and not very flavorful. The crushed pepper and seasonings were excellent on the shrimp, however. I've had slight variations before on Sundays. Chef's day off?
                            Also had my heart broken when I asked about the Sichuan sausage dish and was told that it was a winter seasonal dish. Well, at least that's one nice reason to look forward to winter.

                          2. Well-I am a convert. I went today and had the pan-fried shrimp with crushed pepper. It was delicious. Just the right amount of spiciness. I will have to hone my chopstick skills-I still struggle with rice for some reason. Yes-I was the one sitting there eating her rice with a soup spoon.
                            I wandered around the market when I was done. I got some salty plums (i love them-which grosses a lot of people out), some sesame cakes, and green tea pumkin seeds.

                            1. Mmmm mmmm just went to Asia cafe for takeout. Called in and it was ready when I got there. Just lightly busy at 2:00 on Sunday. Got the pork elbow in it's 9 x 13" foil pan. Unbelievable homestyle goodness. What must be a quart of delicious gravy to put on rice. Tried the green beans and must agree that they are addictive. And the baby bok choy which is super good and ,like the green beans, doesn't seem oily. With a tomato from home a meal any of my aunts or grannies would have loved, despite their suspicion of exotic foods. Picked up a four pack of baked bbq pork buns on the way out for 3.00. They were good too. Asia cafe rocks!

                              1. I finally went today, and it was really great. I had the "Fried Pork" which was tender shredded pork with spinach, bean shoots, and jalapenos. I also tried the Cummin Beef, the Steamed Pork, the Pork with Translucent Noodle, and various dumplings. I can't wait to go back.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: jscro626

                                  For a yummy treat, get the spicy lamb or whatever they call it, and ask them to put cumin on it. that is the normal way the lamb is done in this cuisine. usually the dish is called cumin lamb, not beef, at least in my experience. the lamb dish there is good to begin with, but rises to something even better with cumin. oh, how i miss it. i'm now in Portland Oregon!!!! some good chow here

                                  1. re: sambamaster

                                    I finally got back up to Asia Market this week. As I was by myself, I didn't have to pander to any of my friends' diets (no meat. no nuts. fish only. veggies only...the list goes on and on) so I decided to try something completely new.

                                    Being a ho for salt and pepper anything, I tried the salt and pepper eggplant with pork. It was pretty tasty. The batter was a bit heavy, and I do wish there'd been more seasoning on the pork, but it was still really tasty and I'm glad I tried it. I'll probably never get to eat it again knowing my usual crowd.

                                2. I tried a new-to-me Asia Cafe dish this week the beef shank with daikon. It had a spicy symbol next to it so I expected some heat but in reality this tasted pretyt much like pot roast. The daikon was nicely done--reminded me of rutabagas and the shank meat was chopped into 1-inch cubes and pretty tender but not a whole lot of flavor at this party. I also had the soy beans with green peppers which is very similar to the lamentably gone corn with green peppers. The soy beans aren't the same as the corn but tasty nonetheless. Finally, I should mention the rice cakes with shredded pork is moving up into my top ten Asia Cafe dishes.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Carter B.

                                    Note for any that follow Asia Cafe matters closely (surely I'm not the only one?):

                                    Last night--Sunday nights are always crowded, btw--they had the much celebrated shredded pork with yellow chives. It was good as it was back in February. The brown sauce at the bottom of the dish was particularly pleasing and the shoots of the yellow chives are quite tender. God knows when yellow chive is, but apparently it includes February and May.

                                  2. It had been quite a while since my last trip to AC and, frankly, my last couple of trips left something to be desired.

                                    Grabbed some grub to-go this weekend, and if weren't for the fact that I had to run, I might have stopped into Chen's (prolly best to enjoy these noodles fresh off the knife though).

                                    My ordering tactics at Asia Cafe were denied on all fronts. Pickled long beans ? Nope. Housemade sausage ? Nope. Flower tofu ? Nope. Okaaay. How about lamb w/ cumin ? No lamb, only beef. Alright fine, make it one of those, ma po tofu, pea-shoots, and rice. I go take a seat and start wondering if I just should've gone to Chen's instead.

                                    Then it occurs to me that I've not had or seen another Sichuan staple at Asia Cafe -- fuchi fei pian (fu qi fei pian) -- aka "sliced beef & maw" or "husband and wife slices" or, as it's known on the Asia Cafe menu: Spicy Honeycomb. The dish is a cold appetizer with sliced beef and lung or tripe or tendon or tongue or all of the above, swimming in the characteristic spicy & numbing oil sauce.

                                    Well gosh darnit if this ain't going to accompany every subsequent order at AC. Their version has slices of beef and at least two other beef parts -- definitely tendon, but the other slices in there I was not able to place -- could be lung or tongue or simply a mixed bag of tripe and tendon (though oddly no honeycomb. Regardless, this is probably one of my favourite versions of the dish -- big, meaty, yet extremely tender, slices of stuff in a habit-forming chili oil that'll inflict pain and then numb it, all at once. Intensely delicious, and all that. Nothing says Thanksgiving like sleep-raiding the fridge at 4am and foregoing turkey for beef and maw in chili oil.

                                    Spicy Honeycomb:

                                    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3067/3...

                                    Beef w/ cumin (was alright when enough sauce from the bottom was scooped up - not as good as the lamb):

                                    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3164/3...

                                    Pea shoots (good as always):

                                    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3039/3...

                                    Ma po tofu was its usual silky spicy self.