Second Helpings: Chinese Restaurants, Part Two

Writer Greg Beets surveys some of Austin's Chinese restaurants.

The weekly Chronicle feature "Second Helpings" offers readers the opportunity to sample tasty, bite-sized restaurant listings compiled from new and previous reviews, guides, and poll results. This week's entries were compiled by Chronicle writer Greg Beets. When you need quick, reliable information about Austin eateries, check here.

Mandarin House

8929 N. Lamar, 837-6361

Mon-Thu, 11am-2:30pm and 5-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-10:30pm; Sun, 11am-10pm

A respectable and frequently replenished lunch and dinner buffet is the main attraction at Mandarin House. Popular items include General Tso's chicken, steamed mussels, pork dumplings, and above-average egg rolls. Oddball items like French fries also pop up on the buffet from time to time. The kid-friendly dessert bar includes pudding, chunks of canned pineapple, and soft-serve ice cream. Not as fancy as nearby Buffet Palace, but also not as expensive.

Taiwan Chinese Restaurant & Bar

420 William Cannon, 445-0677

Sun-Thu, 11:30am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11:30am-10:30pm

In addition to all the obvious Chinese dishes (they're all here), Taiwan serves uncommon house specialties like Lobster in Chili Sauce ($15) and Frog Legs With Hot Pepper Sauce ($8.50). Hot and Sour Fish Soup ($3.95 for two) is another one of Taiwan's interesting permutations. Lunch specials run from $3.95 to $4.75 and include such favorites as pepper steak and curry chicken. There is also a full bar on the premises.

Snow Pea

3706 Jefferson Sq., 454-3228

Daily 11am-10pm

Snow Pea's proximity to Seton Medical Center ensures a bustling lunch business. Lunch specials ranging from $4.75 to $5.75 include an entrée, soup, egg roll, and rice. Jalapeño chicken and beef with hot garlic sauce are two good starting points. Snow Pea also has several vegetarian options such as Szechuan tofu and the ubiquitous Buddha's delight. The pricier dinner menu includes a few Korean items such as bulgogi and kim chi.

Peony Asian Cuisine

5308 Balcones, 459-3341

Mon-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-10:30pm; Sun, 11am-9:30pm

This isn't your everyday Chinese restaurant. Sure, Peony can serve up "All Time Favorites" like General Tso's chicken and mu shu pork, but they also have tantalizing specialties like Filipino Pancit Bihon chicken noodles ($8.50) and Persian rack of lamb ($16.95). Lunch specials aren't exactly a bargain ($5.50-$7.95), but you'll hardly mind with menu choices like Tofu in Hot Clay Pot, basil shrimp, and baked salmon.

Sun Hing

2801 Guadalupe, 478-6504

Sun-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-10:30pm

Sun Hing attracts plenty of UT students with lunch specials starting at $4.25. Chef's specialties include chicken with lemongrass ($7.25), orange-flavored beef ($7.50), and Mixed Meat With Bean Curd in Hot Pot ($8.50). Sun Hing also serves Vietnamese noodle soup and a variety of bún (vermicelli) dishes with charcoal-broiled pork, fried tofu, and other toppings.

Jade Chinese Restaurant

3704 N. I-35, 459-6001

Mon-Fri, 11am-2:30pm and 5-10pm; Sat, 5-10pm

All of the usual Chinese restaurant fare and then some. Let's start with bargain lunch specials ranging from $3.75 to $4.95. Mongolian beef, garlic chicken, and orange shrimp are just a few of the hearty offerings. You can also choose from a full menu of sushi. At dinner, Jade's "War Bars" feature a variety of meats and vegetables served sizzling at your table. Not bad if you're trying to impress a date.

Lim Ting Chinese

3900 S. Congress, 442-6330

Mon-Sat, 11am-10pm; Sun, 12-9:30pm

This South Austin institution has been around for quite a while. Yellowing autographs on the wall include Leonard Nimoy and former governor/dormitory namesake Beauford H. Jester. Foodwise, Lim Ting runs a decent lunch and dinner buffet ($4.95 lunch/$5.95 dinner), especially if you like lots of meat. Even the fried rice was packed with meaty goodness. Vegetarians would be better off ordering Szechuan bean curd or Buddha's delight off the menu.

China on the Avenue

908 Congress, 474-0137

Mon-Fri, 11am-2:45pm; Sat, 11am-10pm

Catering to both the economy-minded lunch crowd and the upscale downtown dinner crowd, China on the Avenue serves everything from pepper steak and kung pao chicken to Duck with Ginger Root and Spicy Szechuan Fish. And then there's the China Bird's Nest, which features shrimp, chicken, and vegetables served in a bird's nest woven from shredded potato. Prices range from $5.50 to $10.50, and free delivery is available in the downtown area.

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