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Jan 31, 2010 05:53 PM

run, don't walk

On a freezing Friday, a friend dragged me off to the Liberty bar on east 6th street for the pan asian goodness being made at the food truck at the back of their patio: the best steamed buns in town, especially the pork belly one, a brussell sprout salad that could change forever the way you think about that particular vegetable. fried beets that were heavenly and a Thai-inspired chicken and rice that made me finally see the appeal of the chicken nugget genre. All around $5. The best Asian food from a truck in Austin - and arguably the best Asian food in Austin period! Anyone else been?

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  1. Yes, that is East Side King, and the food was all delicious. I had Poor Qui's Buns (the pork belly one) and the fried beets. I liked the buns and loved the beets. My friend had the chicken karaage, the bits of fried chicken in a tangy/sweet/hot sauce, on what seemed to be a bed of something pickled and shredded, kind of like kim-chee. I LOVED that item and so did he (he only let me have one bite). I'll definitely get that next time, plus the fried beets. Absolutely delicious!

    1. It's so good, it's even worth walking through the foul dank hole of the Liberty Bar to get out back. I've eaten what you've already mentioned: the beef tongue buns (really good); beet home fries (so good, with a creamy (possibly curried? it was a couple weeks ago) sauce for dipping; and the brussels sprout "salad" (WOW!) My party was still discussing the brussels sprout salad days later. The sprouts were, I think, pan-fried and served over a bed of crisp cabbage slaw. Who'd think to put cabbage on top of cabbage? It was outrageously delicious.

      I wish there were a side entry, because the scent of that bar is most unappetizing.

      1. Finally went to East Side King early-ish on Friday night. Y'all weren't kidding about those fried beets. They are very good, and would probably have tasted even better if one had a belly full of beer (love fried food after a few drinks). Mine were served with what appeared to be an unflavored mayo, topped with scallions. I mixed the mayo with the Sriracha sauce they have available. I would make a special stop for these. One order is around $5, but you get a LOT of beets.

        My companion ordered the pork bun and said the pork was fantastic, but that the sauce was too sweet for his taste. I had the brussel sprouts. It is a bit confusing, because there is an appetizer portion of sprouts, and then an "entree" sprouts which is a half order of app sprouts plus the ginger jasmine rice. The brussel sprouts were good: pan fried, salty and crispy with good charred flavor. Unfortunately for me, the rice was soaked in the same sweet sauce as the Por Qui Bun, and I'm not into sweet sauces much.

        6 Replies
        1. re: femmenikita

          I have mixed feelings. ESK is very overpriced, but I like what they are trying to do. The beet fries are a great idea and close to a fair value. The pork buns are a total rip off of Momofuku's in NYC, but not nearly as good and for the same price and served out of a trailer in the back of a dive bar on the East Side of Austin instead of one of Manhattan's top restaurants. They are also poorly executed - the pork belly is fried to oblivian and loses all it's porkiness. It should be braised and then roasted or just roasted. These should be $3 or $4 tops. The curry buns are a misguided idea altogether. The rice / brussels sprouts are the best executed items on the menu, but once again completely overpriced - no protein, just a small portion of a cheap starch and a vegetable for $8.

          There are not enough places serving food like this in Austin, but they have some work to do before they are doing what I think they are ultimately trying to do. I hope they get there because I really want to like this place. In the meantime, the prices need to come down.

          1. re: dickie d.

            Dude, this is Austin, not even Houston, never mind New York - for pan-Asian food. Have you ever been to Momofuku in NYC. The lunch tasting menu is $175 !! Momofuku did not invent steamed pork buns - you can buy them off every third street cart in Manilla. There is nothing on the ESK menu that is $8, the brussels sprouts are 5!! Overpriced, I don't get how you can think that. Where else in Austin can you get similar food for under $10? Actually, where else in Austin can you get similar food at all? Java noodles? I'll pass.And a braised pork belly in a bun would be a soggy and fatty disaster. I love braised and roasted pork bellies but in a sandwich type situation, the crunch you get from frying makes more sense. Momofuku, it ain't but then you are not paying ANYWHERE near Momofuku prices. If you want a Manhattan comparison - and it says a lot for Eastsideking - that such a thing is possible, I would say we have a working man's "Fatty Crab." Cheap and delicious and one of a kind for Austin. I would love the prices to come down, because then it would be absurdly cheap and delicious, but I also want them to survive and thrive. . . They are a great addition to Austin's food options and in a town of some excellent trailer food, i would put them top 5, and for Asian food across the board, while their menu is small, i would much rather eat at Eastsideking than in any of Austin's bad to mediocre Thai, Chinese, Korean restaurants. And in my book, out of all those restaurants, there are maybe 3 that are not bad to mediocre, and nearly all of them more expensive.

            1. re: hungryinaustin

              First of all I didn't say to simply braise them. I said either braise and then roast or just roast. The pork on the ESK buns was obliterated when I ate it. Frying might be OK, but not overfried and the pork was trashed when on the buns I got at ESK.

              You are talking about Momofuku Ko, they don't have the steam buns at Ko - it's prixe fixe. It is the fine dining branch of the Momofuku restaurants and yes, the lunch menu is pricey.

              Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar have steam buns at $6 for two. Momofuku didn't invent steamed buns, of course, but they are their signature dish. The steam pork buns served at ESK are an absolute rip-off of the Momofuku pork buns, although not nearly as good. The only difference is that the pork is overcooked and probably not farm raised. Ask the owner, I'm sure they'll acknowledge the debt, it's just unfortunate that they weren't paying more attention when they copied the dish. Or better yet, look up "Momofuku pork buns" on google images - you'll see something very similar to what you get at ESK, except with superior pork.

              ESK is pretty good and has the potential to be very good. It is overpriced. The pork buns should be no more than 1/2 of what they charge. You can get comparable food out of trailers at a much lower price all over town.They serve pork buns for the same price as Momofuku although they aren't nearly as good. I'm glad they are trying and I'll give them another shot and hopefully they work out the kinks.

              Also, there is plenty of great inexpensive Asian food in Austin. I suggest you start with the cafe at Asia Market:

              I don't know what to tell you except that you clearly are misinformed about Momofuku, how to cook pork belly, and comparable value for food served out of a trailer.

              1. re: dickie d.

                Are you seriously taking them to task both for not rising to the level of one of the best restaurants in the country AND for not being cheap enough? Fair enough. To each their own...

                I'll just add that I care not whether or not they tried to rip off Momofuko or Pok Pok in PDX, as rumored. For the record, I've had the pork buns at Momofuko and I don't expect anything to come close to that again, until I get back to NYC. That is a pretty high bar to expect anyone to rise to. I'm not sure it can get any better.

                These guys are doing something unique to Austin, the food is tasty, and the prices, to me, seemed pretty on point. They certainly can improve, but they ought to be commended and recommended. Them's some good eats.

                I'd go back again and again if they weren't behind a dank smelly bar. As it is, I look forward to my next foray through the bar and out back. Wish more folks were trying stuff like this in Austin.

                1. re: dickie d.

                  > Momofuku Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar have steam buns at $6 for two.

                  FYI, New Yorker here, they've been at $9 for two steamed buns for quite some time now...

                2. re: hungryinaustin

                  I'm looking at their menu right now on the web site and it says:

                  4. Fried Brussels Sprout Salad – $5 (Veggie)

                  7. Veggie Meshi – $7 (Veggie)
                  Fried brussels sprout salad & ginger garlic jasmine rice

                  I think dickie d. is reacting to the price of the sprouts+rice combo since the price difference is $2 than without rice?

            2. Loved the brussel sprout salad but thought the pork bun was overrated. Very much enjoy the atmosphere of the patio of Liberty Bar, though.