Like many an Austenite (hey y’all is it okay that I call myself that after 4 and a half years? ;-)) I have anticipated the opening of the first authentic add groovy Chinese downtown. Aside from the semi-traditional establishments though far and few between uptown, there’s nothing to write home about Chinese wise in Austin. I used to travel to Houston, a good two and a half hours for “real Chinese”.
Now for Wu Chow. The dining room to me seems too small and crowded. The interior is nothing outrageous nor too special. It’s minimalistic yet warm with earthy tones. There’s some seating at the bar, again a bit too crowded but that’s where I wound up with a friend on Dec 30th. The bar staff – two peeps, for a teeny weeny bar seating no more than 15, were completely overworked. The maitre’d was not too friendly going in or out. It took well over ten minutes to get a glass of red wine after putting in my order.
Once my friend arrived we ordered three dishes. Two orders of the soup dumplings, supposed to be their signature dish, tofu, fried chicken in a dry chili and scallion dip and fried zingy cabbage.
Let’s start with plating. Once the dumplings arrived the bar waitress immediately took off the steamer top so as to allow the dumplings to get ice cold. X. I had to yell to get her to put the cover back on. There were chopsticks and a Chinese spoon wrapped in a napkin but no plates to serve the dumplings. Again, had to yell to get the plates. The dumplings were delicious however some of them were already broken inside the steamer without one of us ever touching them. That’s a red flag!
Once the plates arrived so did the other dishes. Without serving spoons or utensils!
The bar waitress seemed annoyed at our request for spoons. My girlfriend is native Chinese and speaks English with a heavy accent. The staff didn’t understand her nor did they try. I noticed, as I do in so many Austin locales, these thirty something staffers were outright friendlier to those in their age group than to others older than themselves. That is just not acceptable nor professional.
The cabbage was by far the best dish. Crunchy, spicy with a tad of sourness to them. The fried chicken had way too much chili and for me the dryness of the chicken with a dry spice didn’t cut it. I would’ve liked a little sauce for the chili and scallions. I wasn’t impressed with the hard tofu. I personally prefer the Japanese style of soft tofu. This was fried in a brown sauce with scallion and one garnished shiitake mushroom. Simply bland.
Lastly, I had to cajole the bar server into serving me an equal portion of wine on my second glass, to compare with the 30 something gal next to me who he poured a way too generous portion while giving me a skimpy glass.
Do I notice details? You’re damned right I do. You have to if you are in this business. It’s the only way to keep ahead of the curve. I’m not sure if Wu Chow will although I wish them the best of luck.