Fearless Critic 2nd Edition
Recommended Restaurant. Stunning duck and seafood straight from the tank at one of Austin’s best Chinese restaurants
We’re endlessly amused by the pervasive Jekyll-And-Hyde nature of Chinese restaurants all across America. Often, the kitchens are capable of turning out so much more than the General Tso’s chicken and Orange Beef that is being asked of them. A savvy (or maybe just pushy) orderer knows how to gain access to the secret Chinese side of the menu, which is worlds away; it’s almost as if food is coming from two different kitchens. Keep this in mind at Din Ho, where the barbecued meats are where the kitchen really shines.
The menu has some really intriguing items like sea cucumber with duck web (it’s one of the best duck webs in the Austin area), but the pièce de resistance is the corner of the restaurant that perveys roast and barbecued meats. Pork is succulent and tangy, while memorable roast duck is bursting with juice, one of the best preparations of the bird in the city. Back in the kitchen, scallops and shrimp with garlic sauce is a superb dish, with buttery seafood, crisp vegetables, and a suprising, fruity sauce that, happily, couldn’t be further from the Szechuan-brown-sauce gloop that we dread so intensely. And don’t miss the Dungeness crab with garlic and onion, which, like the whole fish preparations, comes straight out of the fish tanks in back; the dish requires a bit of manual labor but is a succulent fantasy.
Din Ho has done little to decorate this large, hallowed hall, but the atmosphere comes from the guests and the food. There is always a jolly, multi-colored crowd, with many families, and through the throng weave carts of glistening red smoked ducks, their necks curved in neat rows. Service is friendly and remarkably fast given the hordes, and there is always an agreeable patron happy to translate the staff’s halting English. Best of all, Din Ho still sports that fast-disappearing standby of family Chinese restaurants, the lazy susan, making it a great destination for large groups.
There’s also a handwritten note tacked on the wall, written in both English and Chinese: “If you would like chicken with head on, please reserve with cashier.” Clearly, these folks aim to please both authenticity-craving Chinese families and scaredy-cat Westerners. But come on, whoever you are: go for the head. – FC