Pao's in Lakeway
Made the haul out to Lakeway tonight with the family to go to Pao's, haven't been since they were downtown and saw their name someplace and decided to go, didn't disappoint. I asked for the Chinese menu on the way in, good plan.
The waitress was hustling and managed to keep up with several tables. We got lots of little plates -
Fried shrimp rolls - whole shrimp and cabbage with a too-sweet dipping sauce, but a nice combination.
Pan fried pao-tze - tasted like a regular dumpling, but very tasty, I guess the filling is a little different. The dipping sauce has a pleasant citrus flavor.
Chinese bacon with garlic - Fatty and warm (though it says it's a cold appetizer), a great garlic sauce, a touch of hot sauce made it garlicky, sweet, spicy, fatty all in one bite.
Chive box - a fried pastry with chives, eggs, onion, garlic. Crumbly, very mild flavor, but pleasant.
Scallion pancake - Somehow this didn't show up until the end of the meal. I prefer the kind you get at Coco's, a little thinner and crispier, tbut his was great.
Tea smoked duck - The only entree' wowed us. The duck was mild, smoky, fatty, succulent with crispy skin, an almost sinful combination. This dish alone was worth the gas price to get up there and for $11 is a steal.
All in all, the three of us took leftovers home for $35 plus tip. Hard to believe this quality at that price. Next time, I'll try the duck tongues and red pepper chicken.
Side note - I brought my kid with me, but was blown away that the table next to was bitching at the waitress for the lack of a kids menu. Maybe there's a reason they don't have a kid's menu... Everyone else in the place was eating sweet and sour dishes or beef with broccoli. A real shame, but it apparently isn't stopping them from producing a good product.
a lot of chinese restaurant owners that may serve authentic dishes still have the notion that americans won't try the more unique offerings. that's why they separate them. they don't want to offend.
here are some photos from an egullet society chinese new year dinner at Pao's in february. a lot of this stuff is not on the regular menu.
They don't want to offend who? That is so odd. I just can't imagine why they don't have a separate section entitled "House Specialties" or something (separate from "Chef's Favorites" or whatever). There is a time and place for orange beef (which they do quite well, actually) but sometimes I actually want Chinese food-- as I don't really consider sweet & sour real chinese food (good, but it is more chinese-ish). Either way, everything Pao's does is great.
In my experience, one reason Chinese restaurants do this is that they don't want to deal with the complaints from people who order without understanding what they're getting. It's easier to have a separate menu available on request since asking for it is an indication that you know what you might be ordering.
And don't worry if it's not in English. Just ask what things are. Someone will be game enough to explain. That's always worked for me and it can be a lot of fun.
i am now living in Portland OR, not great for Chinese. But, there is a place where the owner/chef makes hand pulled noodles and the menu has a full page of about 30-40 items, all in Chinese, no translation, but it has things we've grown to love at Asia Cafe, like Water Boiled Beef, Ants Climb a Tree, Chong Qing chicken, etc...many others. I asked him why he doesn't translate those items and he says it's because Americans would not like them. I told him he was wrong, and he's agreed to translate, but I have to help...so I have a friend in Beaumont TX working on it. I told the guy when the word got out, his business would go up 20-24% at least. That's when he paid attention. Another place that has some interesting items has 3 menus! And each time I go in, they give me the watered down version...I have to ask for the other menus. In addition, the walls are plastered with many other untranslated items including Water Boiled Beef which is not on any of their printed menus...I've talked to one of the waitresses and she's agreed to walk me through all the mysteries. We laughed at one translation on the menu for the mainstream: "Cold Murphy slices" i did some homework and discovered this is a cold potato dish...when i told her they had a bad translation, she smiled and nodded in agreement. So maybe they are correct, how many non-Chinese really like Murphy slices, cold OR hot???
This separate "Chinese menu" is written..in English too right? I ask this because the idea seems kind of odd to me. Is this just some separate menu with different selections from the "normal" menu?
I've never been here so I don't know how it all works. Why wouldn't they just offer the diners both menus from the start? Why do you have to specifically ask for the chinese menu?
Second question - what days and times do they serve their dim sum dishes? Also, do they serve steamed shrimp dumplings as part of their dim sum menu?
In fact, does any online menu exist anywhere?
Thank you for your help.
So glad to see someone else trying this place--despite the antiseptic location in a strip mall, it is even better now than it was in the 80s. BTW, the last time I went, about 4 years ago, it was late morning (10:30/11-ish) on a weekend day, and everything (like the Scallion pancake) was even better than you describe it. My friend, much more a connossieur of dim sum than I am tells me this is more kind of brunch cuisine. The real miracle of Pao's (and other outstanding dim sum I've had) is the vegetarian/vegan options that more than hold their own with the meat dishes.