First Chinese BBQ
Diverse ingredients come together at this Cantonese hot spot
Reviewed by Mick Vann, Fri., Nov. 9, 2007
First Chinese BBQ10901 N. Lamar, 835-8889
First Chinese BBQ, in the MT Supermarket Asian shopping center, is an offshoot of the well-known branch in Richardson, which many Dallasites swear by religiously. In Austin it's known as the main competitor of Din Ho Chinese BBQ. Arguments over which is better can start a gastronomic ruckus; we aren't here to make that comparison but to report on a series of meals eaten recently at First Chinese.
The style of cooking found here is Cantonese (from the Guangzhou region, in Guangdong Province), a cuisine known for the wide diversity of ingredients used. First Chinese covers all of the basic stalwarts found on every Chinese menu in America, but branching out to more diverse selections generally yields the best results.
Starting a meal with the barbecue pork and roast duck is a great lead-in to the food here. The combination platter ($7.50) is superb: The duck is moist and tender with a spiced and crispy amber-colored skin, while the pork is fully marinated and loaded with flavor and just the right amount of fat (it's our favorite version in town). The soy-marinated roast chicken ($6.75) is just as good: loaded with rich poultry flavor, with moist meat and a crispy golden skin. Also on the menu are assorted beef and pork parts: Tendon, tripe, and pig tongue and ears are all available for the adventurous.
Fresh shrimp wonton soup ($4.95) is perfect and simple: a rich poultry stock with scallions, filled with large, shrimp-packed wontons. The Beef Fried Noodle ($6.95) is made with fresh, wide shahe fen (flat rice noodles), loads of tender marinated beef, garlic, scallion, and bean sprouts. It has that seared kiss of a really hot wok. The Young Chow Fried Rice ($7.25) is good: nicely separating grains of rice, packed with julienne roast pork, shrimp, carrot, green pea, scallion, diced cabbage, and egg. Although I'm not a huge fan of fried rice in general, this was recommended by a friend, and it was delicious.
Shredded pork with preserved vegetable ($6.75) is a treat: strips of sweet pork balanced with garlic, scallion, and strips of salty pickled bamboo shoot and sour pickled Chinese broccoli. It's an ideal blend of flavors. Black cod with fish sauce ($13.95) was a surprise; expecting a hot pot, we instead got two fillets of delicious sable fish in a thin, crispy batter, served with a nicely balanced dipping sauce made with fish sauce. Chinese mushroom and broccoli ($6.95) is a vegan's dream: luscious braised shiitake mushroom caps tossed with lots of garlic, soy, and julienned Chinese broccoli. Beef with mustard green ($7.50) is skillfully done: well-seared strips of tender marinated beef tossed with garlic, carrot, and Chinese mustard greens and julienned stems. Crispy tofu stuffed with shrimp ($6.25) comprises cubes of fresh tofu, topped with minced shrimp, coated in rice flour, and deep-fried until golden. Accompanied by a robust soy-ginger dipping sauce, it makes a wonderful combination.
The interior is bright and clean, the service quick and accommodating, the portions generous. Contrary to some posts on local blogs, Visa and MasterCard are accepted, and they do a huge business in to-go orders, especially with the items from the barbecue and roasted meats counter just inside the front door. Whether it's just grabbing some roast duck or pork as you leave MT Supermarket, stopping in for a quick bowl of soup or some noodles, or eating a multicourse dinner, First Chinese BBQ has impressed us, and we will return often.