Though barbecue gets most of the notoriety in these parts, Austin’s Asian food scene is exceptional. (Photo: Alamy)
Austin might be physically far from Asia, but when you travel this city with your tastebuds, you could just as easily be in Thailand as Texas. Indeed, while Austin is most famous for its bar — and barbecue — scene, don’t discount the Texas capital’s Eastern acumen.
Whether you’re seeking Vietnamese beef soups, Korean BBQ, Japanese bar food or Peking duck on par with what you might find in China, you won’t have to suffer through a long flight to eat authentic Asian food in Austin … just a little traffic.
As you approach Korea House, which is located inside a nondescript strip mall a few miles north of downtown Austin, you might not feel like you’re in for much of a treat. The moment you step inside the door, however, you could just as well be in Busan as along Austin’s Burnet Road.
The authenticity lies not just in the smell or taste of Korean classics, namely the savory beef and pork bulgogi you cook on the grill-tables right in front of you. It’s the decidedly Korean hospitality — a reserved one, to be sure — that the all-Korean staff treats you to for the entirety of your experience here.
Like Korea House, Pho Please is located inside a strip mall, this one along East Riverside Drive, one of Austin’s student meccas. Unlike its northern neighbor, however, Pho Please immediately conveys its culinary expertise: You’ll see huge murals of hot Vietnamese soups hanging on its clean, white walls — that is, if you can distract yourself from the staff’s sublime hospitality for even a second.
It’s not just pho that’s fantastic here, either. Whether you slurp down vermicelli noodles (the pork ones are best), chomp on a half-dozen-deep selection of bahn mi sandwiches, or even sample the specialty bun bo hue soup, Pho Please provides Vietnamese culinary pleasure like you’d find in Saigon.
Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine
If you’ve ever been to Thailand, your first indication that Sap’s Fine Thai Cuisine is the real deal will be the wai bow you receive upon entry from its (almost) entirely Thai staff. Secondly (and, let’s be honest, most importantly) is the food, whether you sample Thai staples like Pad Thai Noodles and Green Curry Chicken or more adventurous items like Pad Kee Mao drunken noodles (with tofu!) and fish cakes. Wash your meal down with a cha yen Thai iced tea, and enjoy the colorful parasols above you, rain or shine.
Din Ho Chinese BBQ
While Austin’s not short on either Chinese take-out or even options for sampling dim sum, Din Ho Chinese BBQ is unique in that it offers you the option to enjoy Beijing-quality Peking duck without the smog. Then again, you needn’t crave ya rou in order to whet your appetite at Din Ho, where other delectable options like BBQ pork wonton noodle soup and ginger and onion lobster belie the restaurant’s location in tech-centric North Austin.
Fukumoto is a bit of a contradiction, with an ambience that suggests some of the rowdier drinking and karaoke establishments of Shinjuku but cuisine more befitting someplace more upmarket — well, mostly. Indeed, while you won’t be short of options for fresh sushi or sashimi, grilled and fried options like yakitori chicken skewers and takoyaki octopus fritters seem more expertly paired with the Japanese bottled beers offered here.