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"Taiwanese style" Chinese Food - very good - Rice Bowl Cafe (North Lamar and Braker)

n
nw_austin_gourmand Jul 2, 2010 02:52 PM

Heads up Asian food 'hounds - I found a great new Chinese restaurant today in the Asian strip mall on the Southwest corner of North Lamar and Braker. The restaurant goes by the very generic sounding "Rice Bowl Cafe", but I found the food to be anything but generic or bland. I know there are many different types/regions of Chinese food, but I had never heard of a Taiwan style before.

I ordered the Szechuan Beef Noodle Soup - wow! if you like SPICY, this is extremely spicy stuff. The soup is similar to a bowl of Pho; the handmade noodles were extraordinary - they are thicker and chewier than the vermicelli rice noodles you usually see in a bowl of Pho. The beef broth was heartier and much spicier than a Pho broth, and it had a subtle, delicious sweetness that became addictive after a couple of bites. The beef chunks were tasty and plentiful - very tender, full of flavor. I assume the beef chunks were roasted before being placed in the soup as the meat did not have that dried out, boiled flavor. The soup is served with a side plate of cilantro and red onion if you want to add some more flavor to the broth.
I was extremely impressed with the quality of the noodles - these are homemade (handmade), the beef chunks (high quality meat) and the broth (fresh-tasting - full of flavor). The rest of the menu features 15-20 other Chinese entrees, about half were familiar Chinese Restaurant fare and the others a bit more exotic (Pork Feet Noodle Soup!). Next time, I'm definitely sampling the Lo Mein because I think I've developed an addiction to those noodles. ;-)

The service was fast, friendly and very informative. The interior is nice and clean. I believe this is the location of a failed Thai restaurant. This is much nicer than your typical soup kitchen.

The prices are terrific - my bowl of soup was $6.50 and 4 hours later I'm still stuffed. The rice and noodle dishes are $6-$7.5 and the entrees are $7-$9 - the most expensive dish in the place is $9!!

If you are looking for a new place to try, please don't overlook this restaurant b/c of the generic sounding name. There are some delicious treats awaiting you inside the Rice Bowl Cafe. I hope you like it as much as I did

11220 N Lamar Blvd #306
512-835-8888
Open daily 11-9:30

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  1. familyof3 RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 2, 2010 02:56 PM

    looks like I should of went here today instead of Thai in RR

    1. m
      Mike B RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 2, 2010 03:34 PM

      Thanks, I'm going to check it out this weekend. If they have handmade noodles, I'm sure I'll be there often.

      1. rudeboy RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 3, 2010 08:03 AM

        Yeah - thanks for the head's up. I can't find the menu online. The pig's feet sounds interesting....I grew up eating them with sauerkraut.

        1 Reply
        1. re: rudeboy
          b
          budgethound RE: rudeboy Aug 18, 2010 09:32 AM

          The pig's feet noodle soup is one of the best things I've had there. A big bowl contains thick, chewy noodles that appear to be handmade, a few pieces of "baby bokchoy", and a tasty savory broth. Served separately on a plate, the huge pig's knuckle, with the succulent skin and fat intact, had been braised in a rich "red" (http://www.chow.com/recipes/11509-red...) sauce. This is all accompanied by a small condiment plate of cilantro and red onion.

          The pork chop noodle soup is pretty good, too. It's served like the pig's feet noodle soup but with a panko-crusted boneless pork cutlet instead.

        2. j
          jwynne2000 RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 6, 2010 06:46 PM

          Thanks for the thorough description of the szechuan beef noodle soup. I've got to get my hands on a bowl of that! Looks like it's in the former location of Exotic Thai.

          1. n
            nw_austin_gourmand RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 14, 2010 10:17 PM

            Hey - I dropped by this place again for another delicious meal last week. Unfortunately, I was the only person in the restaurant, so I started chatting with the hostess and it turns out the chef at The Rice Bowl Cafe was previously the chef/owner of the much-ballyhooed, mid 80's Beijing restaurant in the Arboretum. For those of you who don't remember Beijing, it wasn't just one of the top Asian restaurants in town, it was one of the top destination dining spots around and usually finished near the top of most restaurant polls.

            This chef is still producing memorable Chinese food. Additionally, there's a terrific photo of the chef with Lady Bird and Liz Carpenter prominently displayed.

            4 Replies
            1. re: nw_austin_gourmand
              amysuehere RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 15, 2010 07:16 AM

              I tried to go yesterday. I thought it was actually in the Chinese Mall. I dove around for a few laps and gave up. Back at the office, I looked and realized I had been within throwing distance. I'll give it another try soon.

              1. re: amysuehere
                n
                nw_austin_gourmand RE: amysuehere Jul 15, 2010 01:17 PM

                you are the 3rd person to complain about this - the entrance is really off of Braker, about 100 yards west of the Lamar intersection. I look forward to hearing your feedback.

                1. re: nw_austin_gourmand
                  amysuehere RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 19, 2010 06:48 AM

                  Boy, this place really has a location problem. Even knowing what/where I was looking, I still had a bit of trouble finding it. I'm glad I did, though! We got the shrimp rolls, the onion pancake and both got the zechuan Beef Noodle Soup.

                  Shrimp rolls were two large shrimp with green and red onions deep fried in a won-ton wrapper served with a tangy-spicy soy-based sauce. Very flavorful, but with the green onions, very difficult to eat. We basically deconstructed with our forks.

                  My least favorite were the onion pancakes. Not very flavorful (even with the pepper oil) and kind of doughy.

                  The soup is HUGE. I have leftovers that I think will last my lunches for the week! Not as spicy as I thought it would be, but the broth was savory, the meat packed in added flavor (not just boiled in the broth) and the bok-choy added a nice bitter crunch. Ooodles of home-made noodles made it a very hearty meal indeed.

                  All that with teas for $21. I can see me craving that soup on a cold, cloudy day...

                  1. re: amysuehere
                    amysuehere RE: amysuehere Jul 19, 2010 09:29 AM

                    Yummy! Leftover soup tastes even better. This soup ages very well!

            2. o
              Oyster Boy RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 15, 2010 06:29 PM

              Thanks for the tip, nw_austin_gourmand. I passed the place a couple of times on my way to Pho Dan, but was put off by the name. Stopped in tonight and picked up a fantastic version of Mapo Tofu. Really outstanding with pieces of pork (instead of ground) and delicious silky tofu. Although the majority of the dishes (on the small menu) are fairly standard- the versions are solid and top notch. There are so many mediocre or worse Chinese joints out there, this one really hits it! And what a bargain, too!

              1. s
                Steven Dilley RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 19, 2010 11:25 AM

                Enjoyed a very good lunch here yesterday. Szechuan radish--essentially a plate of szechuan pickles... cabbage, carrots, celery, peppers--to start. Really well balanced. Slightly sweet, a bit of heat and acid. Nice crunchy. Pretty ridiculous at $1.50. Pan-fried dumplings were absolutely nailed. Well above average seasoning but it was the execution that was amongst the best I've seen.

                A special of water spinach was good. I liked the beef soup but didn't feel it lived it to some of the other dishes. Namely, the pork with dried bean curd, which was very good. As was the salt and pepper shrimp. The szechuan beef was good as well, though there was a hint of sweetness that I could have done without.

                Overall, very good. Hoping to try the mapo this week.

                1. c
                  Carter B. RE: nw_austin_gourmand Jul 19, 2010 11:38 AM

                  We went for lunch today. First it is in the old Exotic Thai location if you recall that.

                  We weren't too impressed. the Sichuan radish was pretty good though I think they charged $2.25 instead of Steven Dilley's mentioned $1.50. Still a good deal.

                  I had the Sichuan fish and my friend had the Sichuan beef and both paled compared to their counterparts at Asia Cafe--at least how they used to make them as I now boycott the place.

                  The fish in particular was too sweet for me and the flavors from the fermented bean curd didn't really come out. The fish itself was nicely cooked. The beef could have been any Chinese beef dish with a touch of heat.

                  Maybe I should have had the soup. I'll give them one more try.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: Carter B.
                    rudeboy RE: Carter B. Jul 19, 2010 01:24 PM

                    Has anyone found a menu online for Rice Bowl?

                    Off topic, but why are you boycotting Asia Cafe?

                    1. re: rudeboy
                      c
                      Carter B. RE: rudeboy Jul 19, 2010 02:11 PM

                      Here's a scan of the menu:

                      http://www.thrillist.com/popup/143812...

                      We were treated terribly rudely there (Asia Cafe). For perspective, it's the only place I boycott in Austin for service reasons (as opposed to lousy food).

                      1. re: Carter B.
                        s
                        Steven Dilley RE: Carter B. Jul 19, 2010 02:23 PM

                        Unfortunately, my last two visits to Asia Cafe were pretty mediocre in the food department. Seasoning was so-so, but there were signs of laziness in the kitchen. Esp when it came to prep... vegetables and meats that were once served properly sized were in huge chunks, making the dishes rather crude and not so chopstick-friendly. I'm hoping those visits were an aberration.

                        Rice Bowl is definitely more delicate in the spice department, but I found yesterday's dishes executed and seasoned with a deft touch, for the most part. Something that suggested above average talent in the kitchen. Too bad about the sweetness in the fish dish. I'm not usually a fan of sweet flavors in savory dishes, esp when it's noticeable. Try the dumplings.

                        1. re: Steven Dilley
                          amysuehere RE: Steven Dilley Jul 20, 2010 06:58 AM

                          Our waiter (so soft spoken) said the dumpling soup is not to be missed. Anyone try any of the Americanized dishes there? I'd like to make it a Friday lunch destination, but it has to please some "meat and taters" palettes.

                  2. i
                    ieathereforeiam RE: nw_austin_gourmand Aug 18, 2010 12:37 PM

                    i had a decent curry there. the green onion pancakes and fried dumplings stole the show though.

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