2300 Lohmans Spur #134
Austin, TX 78738
Pao’s restaurant was once the king of the downtown dining enigmas. It was a restaurant that was completely invisible from the street. Totally set within an office building, one had to literally know that it was there. Drive-by discovery was virtually impossible. And you know what? It was packed every lunch and dinner. They lost their lease in the late 90’s tech boom and had to move out to Lakeway on Lohman’s Crossing near where yours truly lives. Man, are we glad they did.
Steve Pao is a master of many styles of Chinese cooking. He’s got one menu for the gringos and the other for those who appreciate authentic mainland cuisine. Trust me, either choice will be rewarding.
I adore a number of the appetizers at Pao’s. The Shrimp lettuce wraps are succulent and terrific for the low-carb crowd. This appetizer is like having your cake and eating it. And the Vegetarian Dumplings (get them fried) are just flat out beautiful. The dumplings little sparkle with flavor and the firey soy sauce is the perfect complement. And you absolutely have to try the Scallion Cakes. These are sinfully delicious and reminiscent of something you’d find in San Francisco’s Chinatown. When they are hot, they are unbelievable! I love cucumbers and I love the Spicy Cucumber appetizer. This is lip-pursing, piquant, perfection with an engaging texture. Hard to pass up on this one.
On the entrée side, one perennial choice for me is always the Shredded Pork with Dry Bean Curd. I just love the flavors of this dish. The pork is moist and the bean curds are very tender and the sauce is spectacular. Watching carbs? You don’t need the white rice with this dish. It works on its own. And the Sea Bass which we had the other night will flat-out blow you away. The fish is topped with a crispy soy blend that tastes almost like bacon with a hint of green beans. The sauce is luscious, almost a broth, and it’s wonderful. Another treat is the authentic Tan Tan Noodles. This is another Chinatown San Francisco specialty and it will leave you gasping with delight. The noodles, cucumbers, peanuts and the rich sauce is simply over the top with flavor. And another recommendation is the Mongolian Beef. The key to this dish is the impeccable marinade that leaves the beef achingly tender. The flavor are lush but strikingly singular at the same time. I’ll tell you what, Steve Pao can flat out cook!
Pao’s is open for lunch and dinner and is literally the only Chinese restaurant in the Lakeway/Barton Creek West area. Thank the heavens the food is so darned good. They also have Fortune Cookies that teach you Chinese. I mean what more can you want Tai Zi?