T & S Seafood

10014 North Lamar Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78753
Phone: (512) 339-8434
Hours: Mon.-Wed. 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Thurs.-Sun. 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

When planning a meal out, sometimes you want dim lighting and glitzy interiors, and other times, you look past sketchy surroundings for a serious, honest-to-goodness, all-about-the-food experience.  T&S Seafood falls squarely into the latter category.

Glitzy this place certainly is not.  T&S Seafood is an easy to miss hole in the wall north of Highway 183 on North Lamar.  The area is a bit shady, and the decor leaves a lot to be desired, but what this place lacks in ambiance, it makes up for in serious, authentic Chinese deliciousness.

T&S is perhaps best known for its bustling weekend dim sum offerings.  If you haven’t visited T&S for a dim sum weekend, it is a truly memorable eating experience.  People pack into the small eatery, eagerly waiting for their numbers to be called so they can be seated and pick Chinese hors d’oeuvres from bustling carts stacked with baskets.  The dim sum at T&S has deservedly won numerous eaters’ polls, and the entire experience is a must for the adventurous Austin eater.

But on our most recent visit, we opted to go after dim sum hours to sample the menu wares at T&S.  Now, fair warning to those P.F. Changs lovers who may be reading this review.  If you’re looking for sleek tables, terracotta soldiers, and the “beautiful people” scene, you should head to the Arboretum or downtown.  T&S is a dive, plain and simple.  The walls could use a fresh coat of paint, and the carpeting has a suspect haze of unknown origin.  But, if you can manage to not judge a book by its cover, you’ll be treated to a classic.

The menu at T&S is enormous, ranging from Mongolian to Cantonese to Americanized Chinese staples.  We had four diners in our group, and decided to each order something that intrigued us, and then sample it all, family style.

We started out with Wor Wonton Soup, a huge bowl of soup designed for two, but definitely enough for more.  The broth was light and tasty, and the soup was packed with goodies ranging from tender chicken breast to snow peas.  The wontons themselves were packed with flavor and so tender, we had to go at them with chopsticks, rather than our soup spoon.

The steamed dumplings, likewise, were juicy, and packed with pork flavor.  The dumplings had a doughy, handcrafted feel that lent an air of hominess to the meal.

We were ready to move on to entrees.  We saw a tempting dish at the table next to us, and asked for one of what they were having.  It turned out to be a favorite of the night–Salt and Pepper Oysters.  Now, the name might be a bit misleading.  This is a seriously spicy and a bit crazy looking dish.  What I’m saying is, this one is not for the skittish eater.  Atop huge oyster half shells rested some of the most enormous oysters I have ever seen tempura fried and rolled in sauteed scallions and chopped garlic.  Atop the oysters were dozens of fresh slices of jalapeno and a generous dusting of black pepper.  This dish was fiery, texturally interesting, and downright delicious.  The tempura was crispy, and the spice brought an unexpected sweetness from the oysters.  I’ll definitely be back for this dish.

Next we tried the Regal Chicken–basically half a chicken that was seasoned and deep fried.  The reviews on this one were mixed.  The skin was definitely crispy, and the chicken inside juicy, but the seasoning was a bit underwhelming, especially in comparison to our other choices.  A solidly cooked dish, to be sure, but not a knockout.

We next opted for a choice from the Cantonese offerings.  The Cantonese Style Sizzling Beef was divine.  The beef and vegetables were tender, and the colors were beautiful.  The dish came to our table on a steaming skillet (think fajitas), so there’s even a little drama with this one.  But the real star of this dish is the sauce.  The sauce was a little sweet, had a little blast of spice, a hint of tomato, and was very tangy.  Even when the veggies and meat were gone, we found ourselves heaping rice on our plates just to have something else to put the sauce on.

Our final choice was the Chicken Satay.  The dish was definitely flavorful, but if you’re expecting the deep peanut flavoring of Thai-style Satay dishes, this one’s a bit different.  Rather than the nutty flavor of a Thai Satay, which can sometimes overwhelm the meat and vegetables it accompanies, the T&S version has a hint of flavor reminiscent of curry that harmonized well with the tender chicken and vegetables.

T&S Seafood might not be the swankiest spot in town, but what it might lack in decor, it makes up for in authenticity and flavor.

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