The highly anticipated Wu Chow is slated to open sometime this spring, but they’ve been hard at work for months perfecting the modern yet traditional Chinese menu. They’ve leaked a few previews in the form of a soup dumpling giveaway downtown and more recently, a dim sum pop-up in Swift’s Attic. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the sold out event and now I’m sharing my findings with you.
First, a quick and dirty explanation of dim sum for those who may not be familiar: Cantonese small portions that are served in steam baskets at brunch with lots of dumplings and other delectable, hard-to-make dishes. A better explanation, along with dim sum etiquette, can be found on Serious Eats.
In addition to a full menu with things like Salt & Pepper Squid, Mapo Tofu, and Yu Xiang Eggplant, Wu Chow will serve dim sum on the weekends. Having tasted the preview, I can say with confidence that this will be Austin’s next huge restaurant sensation. (In case you didn’t know, my secret talent is predicting sensations and restaurant closings.) Dim sum will be packed every weekend and you’ll be lucky to get a seat. Heed my advice and go as soon as they open.
Pictured above are the Sesame Fritters, glutinous rice balls filled with sweet red bean paste. These are chewy, slightly sweet, and technically a dessert, but I won’t tell if you want to eat them first. The quality of these puffy treats is unlike any other I’ve ever had. While the glutinous texture can be off-putting to some, I think Wu Chow’s version will be a universal crowd pleaser.
What Wu Chow calls Radish Cakes are usually called Turnip Cakes…but they are always made with radish. Daikon, to be exact. +1 for calling a spade a spade. The savory pressed dish was crispy on the outside, succulent and tender on the inside. If I have to each a radish, this is how I want to do it.
The oft-lusted after—and hard to find in Austin—soup dumplings are an exquisite version of a beloved classic. Gossamer thin wrappers are filled with searing hot broth and seasoned pork. While it’s tempting to dig right in to the Xiao Long Bao, it’s beneficial to wait a moment and let them cool slightly. The quicker you bite in the more likely you are to get burned. My inner circle is unlikely to ever get burned as we all take 5 million photos before ever taking a bite…of anything. Anyway, these are so worthy of praise and I can’t wait to have them again.
Scallion Cakes (or scallion pancakes) are not specific to early dining; you can usually get them day or night. The flaky pastry is layered with lots of scallions and are the perfect snack to dip in a dumpling or vinegar-based sauce.
Okay, have you ever seen egg rolls this long and thin? I haven’t and let me say, it’s a crying shame that this doesn’t happen more often. Filled with chicken and taro root, the extra length meant for more crunch in every bite and the ability to wag it like a cigar while chatting. This egg roll was a contender for best dish of the day and best egg roll of my life.
Another contender for best dish was the Gailan, or steamed Chinese broccoli. Always a nice foil for heavier dumplings and fried bites, don’t assume that it’s a bland plate of wilted greens. Sauteed to perfection and lying on a drizzle of oyster sauce, this broccoli was one of the most flavorful parts of the meal and my favorite greens I’ve ever eaten. No exaggeration. My only regret is that I didn’t fill my purse and ration the leaves until Wu Chow opens in a few months.
Because I’m crazy about anything from the ocean, I have a real love for these shrimp fritters. My photo doesn’t offer anything for scale, so you can’t see just how large these are. And they are loaded with shrimp. Big succulent pieces of shrimp and crispy julienned potatoes. Simply excellent.
Char Siu Bao are soft steamed buns filled with Chinese barbecue pork, which is savory and sweet. They are like yeasty, fluffy pillows, filling and satisfying.
I must confess that Shao Mai (or shumai) is never my favorite dish as I’ve had many with less-than-quality fillings. Nothing is worse than biting into a cute little open-faced dumpling and hitting something hard and weird. That’s not going to be a concern at Wu Chow, as the ingredients are of the highest caliber, often local and farm fresh. Notice the dollop of smelt roe on top, which adds an extra burst of flavor and texture, and perfectly compliments the fragrant filling of pork, mushrooms, and garlic. These are real winners.
Ha Gow (or har gow, ha gao, and a million other spelling variations) are shrimp dumplings. Again, Wu Chow is not skimping on the shrimp here. Dumpling lovers will rejoice in the plumply stuffed delicate wrappers. At this point I should mention the dipping sauces, which I didn’t photograph, but were divine. Savory and brown, there were a couple to mix and match as well as a fiery hot sauce that came with a warning. I could eat these dumplings for days.
Egg tarts are another dessert item, that are, again, not overly sweet. The custard tarts are usually pretty eggy and Wu Chow’s were just a bit mellower, which is a plus in my book. The crust was flaky and airy, with many little layers of pastry. These were shockingly good.
Shockingly good is an accurate description for the whole meal, actually. It’s no surprise that C. K. Chin, owner of Swift’s Attic, has another fantastic venture in the works. No, the surprise, or thrill, is that dim sum could be this good. The quality and care put into each morsel was astounding. My fellow diners and I joked that Wu Chow is going to ruin us for all other dim sum, but the sentiment rings true. This is what dim sum was meant to be. Wu Chow is my early pick for hottest restaurant of 2015.
Wu Chow, 500 West 5th Street, Austin, TX (IBC Bank Building)