Saturday, July 2, 2011

Taiwanese "Xiao Chi" at The Rice Bowl

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Coco's was my go-to Taiwanese xiaochi (snacks) restaurant during undergrad in Austin.  However, I outgrew  the place by the time I entered grad school.  The Rice Bowl opened its doors this year and it offers quite a broad mix of Taiwanese and Northern Chinese dishes.  I'm not impressed by the listing of generic Chinese dishes, but their menu was saved by the awesome Roast Beef Rolls!  I believe it's the only place in Austin that serves this!  By "roast beef" they mean soy-marinated beef with tendon, which gives the beef a gelatinous marble surface.  Even if you're not into beef tendon, I promise that you won't even notice it when you bite in.

Roast Beef Rolls

Below are other dishes I've tried but weren't particularly great, except for the awesomely tasty Stir-fried Green Beans with Ground Pork!  The most disappointing dish was the beef noodle soup.  The noodles were chewy and kind of luke warm and the broth tasted like just water and soy sauce, no depth whatsoever.  Taiwanese beef noodle soup is supposed to have a very rich, deep beef flavor.  This broth was unfortunately flat.  The green beans and beef rolls, however, make the Rice Bowl worth frequent visits! 

Pig's Ear

Taiwanese Beef Noodles

Green Onion Pancakes

Stir-fried Green Beans with Ground Pork

Friday, July 1, 2011

Hong Kong Food Street in Houston

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I've complained repeatedly to friends about the lack of good Chinese food in Austin relative to cities with a large Asian population.  Check out Hong Kong Food Street in Houston, which I tried earlier this summer that specializes in Cantonese food.  It has a huge menu with dishes I haven't even heard of!  They offer dishes that range from simple but addictive street snacks to banquet-style cuisine.

Remember the steamed crab over glutinous rice that I raved about in New York?  Well, HK Food Street has a lobster version over seasoned rice.  It's really decadent and oh so good!

Steamed Lobster with an Egg Sauce over Seasoned Rice

I'm addicted to stir-fried green beans (they're like green french fries but not starchy!), so of course I had to have a plate at the table if it's on the menu!  I don't think I've had a bad version at any Chinese restaurant.

Stir-fried Green Beans with Ground Pork

My parents craved clams so we ordered a hot pot of clams doused in rice wine.  This was ok.  I think I prefer sauteed clams in spicy black bean sauce except in the case of Japanese sake clams.

Clam Hot Pot

The best dish of the day was the fried tofu covered with dried scallop gravy.  The fried tofu soaked up the sauce like a sponge so that each bite was an explosion of scallop juice, but the outside retained the dry texture of fried foods.  YUM!

Fried Tofu with Scallop Gravy

Birthday at Enoteca Vespaio

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Enoteca Vespaio

I celebrated my birthday back in June by having Italian at the cute Enoteca Vespaio on South Congress in Austin.  I had previously only gotten their desserts to-go.  It wasn't until I was sure of my imminent move to DC that Enoteca came up on my list of "Austin restaurants I'll regret not having eaten at."  I can't afford Vespaio next door, but at least Enoteca gave me a taste of how delicious pasta and seafood can get in Austin.

Cozze - PEI Mussels Steamed with White Wine and Patate Fritte

My parents and I shared the Cozze as a starter.  The mussels were plump and juicy.  The white wine and garlic broth was so good that mom and I ate it up like soup.  The garlic fries are the best fries in Austin.  Yes, even better than the ones from Izzoz Tacos, which I was obsessed over, because Entoeca's is crunchier on the outside yet fluffy on the inside.


Patate Fritte

Mom and Dad ordered the pan-seared halibut and wagyu beef pasta, both specials of the day.  The quality of ingredients is especially noteworthy.

Chisholm Ranch Wagyu Beef Sugo with Fusilli, Cipolline, Onions, and Reggiano

Pan-Seared Halibut with Sweet Corn, Tealla, Yukon Potatoes, and Shrimp-Caper Aioli

I ordered the rich and luscious linguine misto mare.  The tomato-based broth is so full of the sweetness of seafood and the pungency of garlic and herbs.  Heavenly.  What's very different about this pasta dish is that the sauce is as thin as soup rather than thick like regular pasta sauce.  This was great because I ate the sauce like soup after consuming all the seafood and linguine.

Linguine Misto Mare - Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels, and Linguine in a Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce

I ended the meal with a cafe latte not knowing that this was the best cafe latte I would ever taste in Austin!  It was a great surprise.

Cafe Latte

House Pizzeria

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After reading great reviews on House Pizzeria, I was determined to get a bite of what some say is the best pizza in town.  However, this was one of the biggest disappointments I've experienced in Austin!

Lemon-Rosemary Italian Soda

Let's start with first impressions.  There's a good variety of Italian soda flavors, which got me all excited.  The lemon-rosemary soda was light, refreshing, and had a strong rosemary scent.  Nice.

The first pizza we tried was the Subterranean with caramelized onion, fontina, mushrooms, rosemary roasted potatoes, basil.  This was pretty good, but the really burnt bottom made bits and pieces of the pizza difficult to consume.  Other than the burnt crust, the intermingling flavors of the fresh ingredients made the pizza quite enjoyable.  I never thought that I would like potatoes on my pizza!  Carbs squared!

Subterranean - Caramelized onion, fontina, mushrooms, rosemary roasted potatoes, basil

Subterranean - Caramelized onion, fontina, mushrooms, rosemary roasted potatoes, basil

The big disappointment came in the form of the Sausage and Mushroom pizza.  It was lacking in sausage, and the crust had an abundance of completely burnt air bubbles.  I had to remove all the burnt parts of the pizza before eating.  I wasn't impressed.

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza

Sausage and Mushroom Pizza