Hawkers Asian Street Fare (Orlando)
Orlando has had some really unique new restaurants opening up lately, and tonight, my wife and I tried another great new place, thanks to the recommendation of our own TastyChomps blogger and regular Chowhound poster, Ricky. He recently mentioned Hawkers Asian Street Fare, which I had never even heard of, but I'm so glad he tipped us off to it. It's at 1103 Mills Avenue, very close to Colonial, and my wife thinks it took over the space previously occupied by Winnie's Oriental Garden.
Hawkers describes itself as an Asian gastropub, featuring a variety of common street food specialties from several Asian countries. China, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and Malaysia are all represented, and the menu is quite extensive. Most of the portions are relatively small, so it's a perfect place to order several dishes and share them. However, unlike most of the tapas/small plates restaurants I've been to, I felt the value was excellent -- ordering multiple dishes didn't break the bank, we left happily full, and even have enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
My wife picked out the jicama salad, which I wanted no part of (no offense to her or the fine people at Hawkers who made it). It came with an orangey-red pasembur dressing that she said reminded her of ketchup, and it was the only dish she didn't love. She also ordered vegetarian summer rolls that came with peanut sauce (her go-to app at most Vietnamese restaurants) and sesame chilled egg noodles, which were very good. The noodles were delicious, and came tossed with bean sprouts and a thin peanut butter-based sesame sauce.
As for me, I loved everything I ordered. I started with the roti canai, a soft, rich, buttery Malaysian flatbread that we both fell in love with. It came with a small bowl of curry dipping sauce that had a few chunks of meat and even a soft piece of potato in it, which I liked despite not being a huge curry fan. That was only $3, but we loved the flatbread so much we asked for two more, and they were only $1.50 each.
Beyond that, I got the beef bulgogi banh mi sliders, which were $6 for three small (but not tiny) banh mi wedges, dressed with plenty of mayo, cucumber, carrot, and cilantro. I love banh mi, and this was actually one of the better ones I've had in some time. The roll was perfect -- crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, and the flavors worked great together. All told, the three sections pretty much equaled about a 6" sandwich that could stand up against a few of the banh mi joints in the same neighborhood. It was light on the meat, but I was still satisfied.
Then I ordered the roast duck tacos, which came dressed with cucumber, scallions, and hoisin sauce. The plate had two full tacos for $5, so we each got one. The soft flour tortilla was lightly grilled, and the taco was wonderful. It reminded me a bit of one of the best foods I've ever eaten: the pork belly buns we had at Momofuku in New York City on our honeymoon, which came dressed the same way. I'm a huge duck fan anyway, and would definitely order these tacos -- or another dish contaning duck -- again.
Finally, we shared the largest of the "small plates" (which proved too big to finish), the Malaysian char kway teo noodles, which were very similar to pad Thai: stir-fried wide rice noodles with chicken, shrimp, egg, and shallots. I could easily have made a whole meal of just those wonderful noodles, and I'm glad I get to enjoy them again tomorrow.
I will note that of the seven things we ordered, five of them were marked as "signature dishes" on the menu: all but the summer rolls and the roti canai. Oh, here's the menu, by the way:
We don't drink, but it sounded like they have a pretty nice beer and wine selection. We were impressed that our waters had orange slices in them instead of the usual lemon -- our first time getting that, and something we hope other restaurants pick up on. It was a very nice, modern room with a high ceiling, and I was pleased to note they were very busy on this Friday evening. Our waitress told me Hawkers has only been open for four weeks, but hasn't had an official grand opening yet.
Now that Orlando is getting so many fun, affordable new restaurants and discovering the wonders of well-prepared street food thanks to a small group of hip food trucks, I think Hawkers will represent the best of both worlds for adventurous diners looking for something new. I would definitely go back, and that's my biggest test for recommending anyplace.
awesome post big bad voodoo lou! thanks for the shout out lol. ill post my review this weekend. i loved your choices. ps its in the place once occupied by Chinatown restaurant, i believe Winnies is still standing, near The ravenous pig
Sounds like a good restaurant but an even better write up! Thanks so much for the detailed description and recommendations - wish we had more of these on our boards. Great job Lou
Went to Hawkers last night and was very happy with our visit. There were a few standouts and some solid dishes, and luckily nothing I would rate as not good. I will definitely be back to try out some other items. My brother and I split 10 dishes, none of which were more than $6 or $7.
Crispy skin pork - ordered this twice; it was that good. I would go back just for this.
Roast duck soup - again, and excellent dish. Broth was really flavorful, and the noodles had a perfect consistency.
BBQ pork - good dish, I think we just got some dry pieces. Definitely has potential though.
Roast duck - very nice dish, good crispy skin
Roast duck tacos - I liked this dish, although it just need some moisture b/c based on the ingredients alone, it has a natural tendancy to be dry. Maybe if the cucumbers were more pickled it would have made a difference.
Bulgogi Banh Mi - I liked this dish as well, although I could have used some sriracha with it (I was surprised there were no table condiments like hot sauce or soy sauce).
Green papaya salad - nice, simple, very fresh salad.
Bok Choy in oyster sauce - another good side dish, just with the veggies were cut differently since they were difficult to eat with chopsticks.
Curry meatballs - I liked this dish a lot, but beware that the meatballs are more like the ones you'll find in Pho, and are bascially steamed meat mouse balls. Texture was springy, but I like that so it was successful for me. Curry sauce had good flavor.
All in all the bill was $55 for the 2 of us before tip, which isn't bad for all the tastes we got to try. Will definitely be back to try some other items, and get that crispy skin pork again.
Thanks for the review, I tried Hawkers Monday night cause of the review and you were spot on. This is definately one of my new favorite places.
I was so stoked to get the Crispy Roast Pork....but they were out :(
I did get the Curry meatballs and was really suprised at the outer texture of the meatball. I didn't expect such a nice "char" and outer crust...they were really good.
I also got the Bulgogi Banh Mi slider - which was awesome. I asked for Siracha cause, well Sirachi is good on anything especially a Bahn Mi. I do agree with the other reviews that there was quite a lot of bread on the Bahn Mi, but good bread, so I didn't mind peeling it off and eating it.
My gf also got the Stir Fry Udon with Chicken which was also great and had a char grilled flavor from the wok.
All in all it is a great restaurant with good prices, a huge beer selection and a ton of tasty treats. I can not wait to go back over and over....and hopefully get some Crispy Roast Pork this time!!!