Our Food Critic’s Fave Offers Diners a Triple Threat of Excellent Service, Decadent Dim Sum and Sexy Design
by Karen Spezia
Photographs by Reagan Taylor
Ever wonder where a food critic eats on her day off? You’ll find me at Wu Chow, downtown’s terrific year-old Chinese restaurant. Asian food is my jam and I‘d eat it daily if I could. But my job requires I sample a variety of restaurants and cuisines, so when I’m off the clock I head to Wu Chow. Most Sundays, you’ll find me there for dim sum, and I steal away for lunch or dinner, too.
Wu Chow’s standouts include its signature Shanghai soup dumplings, bursting with succulent juices; the filling, pillowy bao stuffed with pork belly; the slender, crispy chicken and the taro eggrolls.
What makes Wu Chow so special? For starters, the food is terrific: fresh, authentic, delicious. Secondly, the place looks great, with high-end finishes rarely found in Chinese restaurants ( just saying…). Wu Chow has a subtle, urban sex appeal with soaring windows overlooking bustling Fifth Street, metallic upholstery, a Kelly green lacquered communal table, walls covered with mah jong tiles, and a mellow outdoor lounge and patio. Even the restrooms look cool.
And finally, the staff is always welcoming and hospitable. It’s a killer trifecta that makes for one of Austin’s best new restaurants.
The tantalizing flavors at Wu Chow come with serious street cred: partner C.K. Chin (Swift’s Attic) was raised on his family’s Chinese dishes and his chefs hail from the mainland. You’ll find all your favorite Greatest Hits here, but what sets Wu Chow apart from many Chinese restaurants is its commitment to local, fresh, high-quality ingredients. No mystery meat here.
Food is meant for sharing, so start by passing around a plate of Spicy Sichuan Deep-Fried Chicken, paired with an order of simple, palate-cleansing Spicy Marinated Cucumbers. Next, try any of the outstanding entrees like Scallions Hugging Beef, Chicken with Fermented Black Bean, Honey Pecan Gulf Prawns or Mapo Tofu. Veggie dishes sourced from local farms are stars in their own right like Dry-Fried Green Beans from J&B Farms, Wok-Tossed Okra from Fagan Family Farms and Sichuan-Braised Eggplant from Johnson’s Backyard Garden.
You don’t have to wait for Sunday to sample some of Wu Chow’s outstanding dim sum delicacies since many are offered on weekdays. Standouts include its signature Shanghai soup dumplings, bursting with succulent juices; the filling, pillowy bao stuffed with pork belly; the slender, crispy chicken and the taro eggrolls.
Wu Chow is a mob scene on Sunday and for good reason: its dim sum is outstanding. Unlike traditional Chinese restaurants, Wu Chow doesn’t serve from rolling carts, but from a menu. Initially, I missed the familiar clatter and chaos of the carts, but now I get it: everything arrives hot and fresh and never greasy. Don’t miss the festive cocktails served in tiki glasses or the thoughtful wine list including gems like a dry sparkling Lambrusco that pairs beautifully with everything on the menu. There’s also a respectable beer and tea offering.
Wu Chow is one of the best new players in town and it’s a treat to have a sophisticated Asian option that doesn’t require a trek north of Research. Partner C.K. Chin and General Manager Howard Chang will make sure you have a great time, as will my favorite server, April—and all the terrific staff. I’ll see you there soon.
Read more from the People Issue | December 2016