Top 10 Eateries Bringing Asia to Austin
1) Xian Sushi & Noodle
The centuries-old Chinese art of hand-pulled noodles is exhibited in fine form at this Mueller outlet, where a choose-your-own-noodle adventure (your pick of six sizes and shapes) makes for endless entrée options. Xian's shoyu ramen (I opt for the "spaghetti" noodle) gives Austin's celebrity ramen-yas (see No. 9) a run for their money.
2) Love Balls
Japanese street food served from a trailer on Spider House's patio satisfies my late-night cravings while transporting me back to the busy Tokyo sidewalks of my study abroad. Yatai offerings here include takoyaki (octo-pops) and yaki-onigiri (garlicky, grilled rice balls). Oishii! (That's Japanese for "Nom!")
3) Whip In
Easily my favorite mini mart slash sour-beer brewery slash music venue serving Indian/Southern mash-ups, the Whip In is truly an Austin institution. You can't go wrong with dal hush puppies or the South Asian Frito pie, and I've never been disappointed with the specials.
This modern Thai spot continues to be my go-to for entertaining out-of-town guests or celebrating special occasions. With libations like tamarind drinking vinegar, house-made citrus-basil soda, and Sho Shiku Bai unfiltered cold saké, it's easy to enjoy a first course purely in liquid form. The prawn miange and blue crab fried rice and jasmine panna cotta take me to a special place, too.
Tyson Cole's South Lamar treasure trove offers a daily saké social (5-6:30pm) that makes this elegant Japanese joint accessible, in both atmosphere and price point. Machi Cure is a perfect pairing of smoked yellowtail, Asian pear, marcona almonds, and garlic brittle on a yucca "crisp" – without a doubt the best nacho you'll ever taste.
6) Din Ho
North Austin's Chinese barbecue mainstay is great for large groups eating family-style around a lazy Susan. Order the whole roast duck: moist, fatty meat in a succulent glaze, pillowy steam buns stuffed with scallions and tangy hoisin sauce. An orphan Christmas at Din Ho left me and 10 transplants in barbecue bliss.
7) Kin & Comfort
This unassuming food court tenant inside Hana World Market merges Thai staples with down-home Southern comfort foods. Tom kha shrimp and grits, panang mac and cheese, and Thai-tea pie will take you around the world then back before the next bite.
The best sashimi in Austin – generous slabs of sake, maguro, hamachi – comes from Hanabi's sushi counter. The house Hanabi Roll, crested with a trio of tobiko (red, black, and green roe), is as exquisite in flavor as it is in presentation. And you can wash down the works of art with a bomber of Kirin.
9) Michi Ramen
Everyone's got a favorite in this town. Why does Michi make my list? Because corn and a pat of butter (Sapporo Ramen)! Because choices (light, regular, or stout broth)! Because add-ons (pickled mustard greens, fermented bamboo shoots, even smoked barbecue pork ribs)! It's ramen my way.
10) Wu Chow
Downtown's newest Chinese restaurant gives us dim sum and then some. There's something extremely sexy about eating Chef Ling's soup dumplings: first puncturing the homemade morsels' meticulous folds and sucking out the stock. Then drizzling the doughy, chicken- and pork-filled remnants with Chef Chen's top-secret chile oil before popping it back into your mouth .... Need I say more?