Fearless Critic 1st Edition
Recommended Restaurant. Humble, authentic, delicious Chinese cuisine, on a Lazy Susan if you please. The handwritten note tacked on the wall at Din Ho Chinese BBQ is written in 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 com on, whoever you are: go for the head.
The menu offers a variety of options ranging from Chinese-American standards like beef lo mein to the intriguing sea cucumbers with duck web (it’s one of the best duck webs in the Austin area). It’s hard to go wrong here. Just about everything is tasty, with fresh ingredients and tender meat, but the piece de resistance is the corner of the restaurant that purveys roast and barbecued meats. Pork is succulent and tangy, while memorable roast duck is bursting with juice, one of the best preparations of duck in the city. “Salt Chicken,” another product of the barbecue corner, is moist and delicious. Back in the kitchen, scallops and shrimp with garlic sauce is a superb dish, with buttery seafood, crisp vegetables, and a surprising, 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. Hooray! -RM