The Austin Food Bloggers Alliance City Guide 2012 offers information about dining options in the Austin area created by local bloggers. The following blog entry is an overview of the 2012 Asian fusion dining scene in Austin.
Austin has a thriving Asian fusion scene with delicious options all over town and in all price ranges. The following is a list of some of Austin’s best Asian fusion options, arranged by the area of town in which they are located.
DOWNTOWN (River to 183, bordered by MoPac & I-35)
Some of the best Asian fusion options in the downtown area come by way of roving food trucks, including Chi’Lantro, The Peached Tortilla, and Yumé Burger. However, the following section is limited to downtown-only spots. Check out the “Roaming” section below for mobile options that also hit the downtown area.
One downtown eatery with lots of Asian-inspired, healthy options is Koriente. The offerings here range from hand rolls and curry dishes to bibimbap and obake bowls. The menu also includes a number of vegan options. The hummus roll is a popular option, and features hummus, avocado, and fresh veggies in a tapioca wrapper. Koriente also offers an extensive selection of teas, including blossoming teas and very popular bubble teas.
The other fusion options downtown come with a decidedly sushi-centric spin. An upscale option in the Warehouse District, Imperia is beautifully decorated, with delicious cocktails (the Imperia Pearl with Grey Goose and nigori sake is divine), a number of infused sakes, and some unexpected sushi and sashimi combinations (the hamachi popo with yellowtail, Fresno peppers, and Yuzu is a great choice). The menu ranges from dim sum standouts like pork and Asian pear shiu mai and scallion pancakes to tasty small plates (try yuzu crusted oysters). Main courses here range from Thai curry clay pot to Peking Duck for two. Be sure to sample the butter poached lobster mashed potatoes. This spot gets a bit pricey in the evening, but the happy hour prices are great for both sushi and appetizers.
On San Jacinto near 2nd Street, Piranha Killer Sushi offers an extensive list of its own signature rolls and sashimi choices. The huge offering of appetizers and rolls includes unusual options such as crawfish and conch. If sushi’s not your thing, Piranha also offers Korean beef and udon options
EAST (East of I-35)
The best Asian fusion spots East of Interstate 35 comes by way of several trailers just blocks from downtown. Me So Hungry, located on East Sixth Street just behind Cheer Up Charlie’s bar. Me So Hungry serves up bites with a Cuban-Vietnamese inspiration. Its bánh mì sandwiches are particularly tasty and popular, but Me So Hungry also offers several rice paper rolls, stir-fried noodle bowls, and salads. They even offer limited delivery options.
The star of the East Side, however, is undoubtedly East Side King. East Side King has outposts at three popular East Side bars–Shangri-La, The Grackle, and Liberty Bar, each with its own unique menu. These colorful trailers serve up some of the most delicious meals in the city. From the delicious pho and crispy chicken skin steamed buns to the crispy, tangy chicken karaage, East Side King serves up stellar, creative dishes at very reasonable prices. (The beet fries are seriously out of this world). But, word of mouth does have its hiccups. The waits can be long at East Side King, but the food is worth the wait, and luckily, you can grab a cocktail while you pass the time.
SOUTH (South of the River)
Close to downtown is Asian fusion star Uchi. This lauded spot is helmed by James Beard Award winner Tyson Cole. Uchi makes its home in a cozy bungalow on South Lamar Blvd. The kitchen at Uchi is skilled and playful, with elegant and interactive dishes on display. The fish used at Uchi is flown in daily from Tokyo. Unexpected additions such as sun-dried tomatoes, leek crisps, and lemon miso make the plates at Uchi sophisticated, surprising, and delicious. Interactive options like the sear-it-yourself wagyu beef hot rock add touches of whimsy to the Uchi experience.
Another happening South Austin option for Asian fusion comes from the team behind Perla’s and Lambert’s, and merges bánh mì with boulangerie. Elizabeth Street Cafe makes its home on South 1st Street in a spot formerly home to Bouldin Creek Coffee (which has since moved down the street). This spot offers unique fusion mash-ups like pairing Niman Ranch pork belly with cucumber, scallion, and hoison on a steamed bun or teaming up Dungeness crab with glass noodles, Fresno chiles, and tarragon. Elizabeth Street is open daily for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Its menu includes a wide selection of teas, cocktails, sake, beer, and wine, as well as patisserie selections such as eclairs and pots de crème.
Far down I-35 near its intersection with Slaughter Lane is Mimi’s Asian Fusion. This spot features an extensive menu with inspirations ranging from Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, and Thai. The broad choices at Mimi’s run the gamut from bulgogi to pho to curried vermicelli bowls.
East Oltorf is home to Java Noodles Restaurant, a spot with Malaysian/Indonesian influences and an extensive Sunday buffet. Java Noodles offers a buffet/menu hybrid at lunch, and the prices are extremely reasonable. The spicy coconut soup, chicken Satay, and Java Roast duck are standouts on the menu. Java Noodles also makes its own egg noodles in-house.
CENTRAL (MLK to Hwy. 183)
One of the starts of the Asian fusion scene calls Central Austin its home on North Lamar Blvd. near 45th Street. Uchiko (owned by Uchi’s Tyson Cole) is helmed by Paul Qui, star of this season’s Top Chef Texas on Bravo TV. Uchiko produces some of the most inventive, creative, and beautiful dishes in the city. Food and Wine magazine called one of Uchiko‘s dishes, the Jar Jar Duck (featuring smoked and confited duck, duck cracklings, kumquat confit, and smoked rosemary), one of the 10 best restaurant dishes of 2011. Uchiko also serves up some of Austin’s most unusual and unbelievable desserts. Although the prices are on the steep side, a meal here is definitely worth the splurge. Check out a detailed blog post about Uchiko here.
On West Anderson Lane near its intersection with Burnet Road is PhoNatic, a largely Vietnamese spot with some unexpected twists. In addition to an extensive pho menu, PhoNatic also serves up bánh mì inspired sliders, which include grilled pork, pickled veggies, jalapeños, and daikon on steamed buns, and are truly addictive and full of delicious flavors. The PhoNatic menu also includes some seriously intriguing and unexpected looking desserts
NORTH (North of Hwy. 183)
Ka-Prow Bistro makes its home on West Howard Lane just off of Interstate 35. Ka-Prow pulls its influences from Thai, Chinese, and Japanese influences, but Thai and sushi dishes are at the forefront on the Ka-Prow menu. Both the Pad Thai and Pad Ped are popular choices. Ka-Prow also offers a broad list of vegetarian options, as well as one of the more extensive gluten-free menus in town.
Up Hwy. 183 at Anderson Mill Rd., you will find Osaka Mansun. This cozy spot tucked away in a suburban shopping center puts out some of the highest quality sushi and sashimi in town. If ordering sushi, sit at the bar for a bird’s eye view of the food prep, and some of the friendliest sushi chefs you’ll ever meet. The surf clam is always super fresh, and the spicy scallop is fiery and luscious. The menu at Osaka Mansun also includes a wide range of Korean choices (the bibimbap and bulgogi are very popular). Osaka Mansun also has great lunch specials (but waits can get long around the noon hour). Check out a detailed blog post about Osaka here.
Chon Som is located near I-35 in the Wells Branch area. Chon Som serves up sushi options, including some vegan sushi choices, as well as a broad range of curries and authentic Thai dishes. The fish cakes with kaffir lime are a standout choice. Chon Som offers all-you-can-eat curry on Wednesdays.
On far North Lamar Blvd. in the Chinatown Center, Baguette House & Café lures bánh mì lovers from all over town. This popular spot serves tasty sandwiches on flaky, soft 10-inch baguettes, hollowed out and filled with house pickled veggies, soy sauce, house mayo, and a generous scattering of onion, jalapeños, and cilantro. The bánh mì options here range from the traditional (bbq pork, grilled beef, which are both well flavored and delicious) to the more unexpected (Cajun shrimp, sardine). For the more adventurous eater, check out the Baguette House special combination sandwich, featuring ham, head cheese, pork meat loaf, and paté. The prices are jaw-droppingly low. There are also beautiful French pastries, including paté chaud (warm pastries filled with paté) and cream puffs.
ROAMING OR MULTIPLE LOCATIONS
The Peached Tortilla is a mobile food truck that services several regular locations around town (locations are updated online and on Twitter). The Peached Tortilla is a labor of love of Eric Silverstein, who decided to forego a successful career as an attorney to serve meals at what has come to be one of the most raved about food trucks in the city. The Peached Tortilla marries Asian flavors with hints of the American South and Mexico. Some crowd favorites at this popular spot include the pad thai tacos, bbq brisket tacos, and crab cake sliders. Check out the banana Nutella wontons for dessert.
Chi’Lantro BBQ is another mobile food truck serving up inventive Asian fusion choices. Chi’Lantro’s dishes draw inspiration from both Korean and Mexican (the name is a combination of kim chi and cilantro). At any given time, at least one of the Chi’Lantro trucks is usually downtown, but more far-flung areas can get a sample of this tasty trailer by checking out the Twitter and web location schedules. Chi’Lantro serves up hybrid tacos, burritos, and bowls, including favorites like kim chi french fries (stacked with cheese, Sriracha, sesame seeds, and Korean BBQ) and a bulgogi Korean burger.
Yumé Burger is the sister food truck to The Peached Tortilla. Like its predecessor, its location is updated via the web and Twitter, and includes some areas of town that have been sadly pretty trailer free until now. Yumé Burger serves up delicious Japanese-inspired burgers and sandwiches with add-ons like seared pork belly, wasabi cole slaw, and Japanese Jame. The Oishii, a tempura battered whitefish sandwich with wasabi slaw and Japanese pickles is a standout, as is the JapaJam, a beef patty with Japanese tomato jam, fried onions, Japanese bbq sauce, jack cheese, and a fried egg.
Hai Ky has several locations across the city, including spots near campus on The Drag, on Spicewood Springs near Mo-Pac, on East Oltorf, and in Westlake on Bee Caves. The menu at Hai Ky includes a number of pho and bun vermicelli options, Satay, and pad Thai, as well as a range of vegetarian and vegan choices. Hai Ky also offers the option of creating your own stir fry.
Mama Fu’s Asian House has several brick-and-mortar locations around the city. The dishes include Thai, Chinese, and Vietnamese inspirations. The seared ahi tuna starter is reliably delicious (and can easily be a meal in itself), and features quality seared ahi, a sweet and tangy raspberry dressing, and Ponzu. The lettuce wraps are also excellent, and can easily feed two people. The menu also includes a number of kid friendly options. The house-made hot mustard is unbelievably spicy.
If you find yourself much further afield, near Lake Travis in the Lakeway area, Mizu Steak & Sushi is an upscale option with interesting Asian infused bites such as chilean sea bass with bok choy and ginger and hot rock akaushi beef and shrimp. The views here are stellar, particularly near sunset, thanks in large part to the nearly floor to ceiling windows off both the dining area and the cocktail lounge. For cooler days, Mizu also offers an outdoor area heated by a large fireplace. The lounge offers numerous cocktail specials, and the wine list is extensive and impressive. The daily happy hour specials include very reasonable options for both drinks and bites (include shisito peppers with aioli and duck tacos).