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RedFarm: A Fresh and Modern Approach to Chinese Cuisine

Recommendations on cocktails and dishes to order on your next visit to Austin’s popular downtown dining destination

Red Farm
Photo by Holly Cowart

RedFarm has only been open for a few months in Austin, but I’ve been dining there for years. You see, its original location in NYC is near my brother’s Manhattan home, and I’ve been a fan for over a decade. As one of my family’s neighborhood haunts, RedFarm has hosted us for everything from casual weekend meals to special celebration dinners. It’s a crowd-pleasing place that satisfies the whole gang with Asian food that’s familiar yet unique and an ambiance that’s upscale yet funky.

So, I was thrilled when I heard that Austin was getting its very own RedFarm. Open since November, it’s located downtown in the former Cantina Laredo spot that has sat vacant since 2016. The 5,700-square-foot space offers a spacious dining area, a covered sidewalk patio, a full bar and two private dining rooms that can accommodate up to 150 people. Its location in the center of Austin’s buzzy 2nd Street District makes it an ideal choice for grabbing a bite before taking in a show at ACL Live, Parker Jazz Club, Elephant Room, or Violet Crown Cinema.

Photo by Holly Cowart

Austin is not RedFarm’s first expansion. There are now two Red Farm restaurants in NYC, plus one across the pond in London and one soon to open in Miami. To my delight, much of what I’ve enjoyed at the original NYC RedFarm has made its way to Texas — not only many of the signature dishes and cocktails, but also some of its personable, professional staff like manager Jeff Goldin, a.k.a. the Dumpling Ambassador, who temporarily relocated to Austin to help get things off the ground.

RedFarm has always been known for its beverage program, so before diving into your meal, relax over the menu with one of its excellent cocktails. Le Hot Club is one of its best sellers, a spicy twist on a classic margarita made with Aguasol Blanco tequila infused with jalapeño, mint, and lime, then garnished with a cucumber ribbon and a spicy smoked salt rim. The Eastside Roku, a riff on a gimlet, is made with Roku Japanese gin, bergamot orange and lemon citrus, cucumber, and aromatic red shiso herbs that give it a deep magenta hue. For beer and wine drinkers, there are lots of tasty options, including the versatile Trimbach Pinot Gris from Alsace that complemented everything we ordered and was a great value to boot.

Photo by Holly Cowart

RedFarm offers a fresh, modern — and often playful — approach to Chinese cuisine. One of its most famous items is the Pac Man Dumplings, a colorful dim sum creation modeled after the characters from the vintage arcade game, but there are also more traditional dumplings that reflect Executive Chef Joe Ng’s Cantonese heritage, like Pan Fried Lamb Dumplings, Crunchy Vegetable & Peanut dumplings, and Chicken Dumplings flavored with Chinese five spice and Sichuan peppercorns and garnished with slivered red onions, cucumbers, and fresh herbs. My favorites were a nightly special that I hope become a permanent offering: delicate Shrimp & Snow Pea Leaf Dumplings wrapped in tender translucent dough and bursting with bright, fresh flavors.

Photo by Holly Cowart

In case you forgot that RedFarm hails from NYC, Ed’s Pastrami Egg Rolls are the restaurant’s No. 1 bestseller, so beloved that they’re also sold via Goldbelly mail order. Filled with pastrami, asparagus, red chili, and cabbage and served with lemongrass honey mustard dipping sauce, these extra-crunchy rolls were ordered by almost every table in the restaurant. Spicy Crispy Beef is another popular dish, tossed in a glistening sweet-and-savory soy sauce flavored with ginger, garlic, shallots, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, and Grand Marnier.

RedFarm’s Peking Duck is famous and for good reason — it’s the best I’ve ever had. Perfectly roasted with crackling-crisp skin and succulent meat, the duck is folded into ultra-thin pancakes and served with the traditional accoutrements of slivered scallions, cucumbers, and dipping sauces. The price is steep, but well worth it. Pair it with my favorite side of Sautéed Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic. And try to save room for dessert or take some home. The Key Lime Pie is outstanding and has the perfect balance of sweet and tart, crust and meringue. I have no idea why it’s on a Chinese menu, but who cares when it’s this delicious?

Photo by Holly Cowart

A lot of NYC restaurants have set up shop in Austin and RedFarm is a welcome Big Apple import. It’s a great new addition to our city’s ever-expanding list of terrific Asian options. Now that I have this in my own backyard, my next family visit to NYC may be spent searching for a new neighborhood haunt.

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