The beauty of Hao-Q Asian Kitchen is extensive: from the lovely and gregarious Hong who works the front of the restaurant to her husband, the amiable and very talented chef Young who produces the varieties of Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine that tend to keep this restaurant located at 3742 Far West Blvd. more crowded than not.
There’s more to this story. Young’s older brother Kevin runs a similarly tasty spot at William Cannon and Manchaca called Hao Hao. And the topper is that his wife Linh, who also happens to be Hong’s sister, also runs the front of the house at Hao Hao.
Hong met Young in Utah as both were in the wedding party when Kevin and Linh married. They struck a chord. And so the story goes …
Meanwhile, back to Hao-Q. The menu begins with some of the best Chinese Spare Ribs this side of the Great Wall. They are requisitely tender yet slightly charred with a sweetness that makes them irresistible. The combination of spices that accentuate the flavor is proprietary and after the first bite one can see why. Another family favorite is the Vietnamese Egg Rolls (Cha Gio). These differ from traditional Chinese rolls as they have a thicker crust and are designed to be wrapped in lettuce and dipped in a sweet vinegar sauce. I love the textural contrasts and the sweet and sour vibes.
One also must sample the Chicken Lettuce Wraps. I don’t order this dish often as it frequently winds up being rather pedestrian. Not so at Hao-Q. The perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken, peanuts, and vegetable accoutrements virtually beg to piled onto a leaf of crisp lettuce and rolled up. It works every time!
The majority of the menu at Hao-Q is devoted to Chinese cuisine, but if you are partial to what I like to call “Vietnamese penicillin” then their Pho will do quite nicely. I especially like the Shrimp Pho served with a flavorful beef broth along with jalapeños, bean sprouts, rice noodles and cabbage. The Pork Vermicelli Bowl is another hearty yet healthy dish with ample flavors and amounts to satiate the hungriest diner. They have a perfect blend of fish oil that they add (I always put on a healthy amount of Sriracha, too) and it makes for a great dish.
The Chinese entrees are always consistent and invariably tasty. The Sesame Chicken is a great example of a dish that can be cloyingly sweet at some restaurants but that is perfectly balanced and tender at Hao-Q. And I’m also a fan of the Beef and Scallops in Sizzling Oyster Sauce. The immediate first-bite rush this dish provides is stellar. It then mellows a bit as it settles on the back of the palate. I’ve ordered this more than once and will be back.
Then we come to my absolute favorite: The Peppery Shrimp. Plump Gulf shrimp are put to the test in Young’s special dry frying method. The result is magical. Vegetables and shrimp blend together in a melange of flavor and texture. Serve over brown rice and you have an absolute must-try.
Finally, I must give props to the Shrimp Egg Foo Young which in essence resembles a Chinese omelet. I love the rich brown sauce that adorns it and the fulsome flavor of the eggs. You won’t see this dish in mainland China nor much in central Texas for that matter, but I highly recommend it!
Hong and Linh, in case you were wondering, are each other’s biggest cheerleaders even though they essentially have competitive operations. So it’s all in the family at Hao-Q and at Hao Hao and all Austin foodies are better off for it!