Hey, I'm new to Chowhound, thought I'd post on some of my favorite Austin restaurants that, to my mind, have been under-covered (or, in some cases, not covered at all) on the site. Would love to get feedback if any of you have been to these places.
1) Jenny's Kitchen (8650 Spicewood Springs, 257-3647). My wife and I discovered it on our way to Asia Cafe (it's in the same strip mall) and, on the basis of two visits, promptly fell in love. Our first time there, two weeks ago, we had breakfast: Chicken porridge, which is, as far as I can tell, a congee, and easily the best congee I've had in Austin, warm and filling and full of slivers of fresh ginger. We also had a shrimp noodle soup (can't remember the name) that was full of complex Malaysian (I think) spices and was so good we didn't even mind that we had ordered two soup dishes. (Plus, there was a nice peppery "free soup of the day" on the counter that you could help yourself to. No, we're not on a liquid diet; we just ordered unthinkingly.) Our third dish was scrambled eggs with shrimp, which was, basically, scrambled eggs with shrimp, but perfectly respectable for that. Ten days later we returned for dinner, and not only did Jenny remember us, she remembered what we had ordered. (This is a friendly place, and a constant stream of regulars seem to come in all the time.) This time we got completely different dishes: Rendang beef (one of the best red meat dishes I've ever had, period -- a bowl of chunks of meat swimming in broth), sambal eggplant (thumb-sized chunks of eggplant covered with wonderfully stinky fish sauce) and Thai-style fried chicken (basically, really good McNuggets covered with a tart shredded cabbage and seaweed salad). This is a tiny place -- a counter and maybe five tables -- but it's our new favorite restaurant in town.
2) Le Soleil (9616 N. Lamar Blvd., 821-0396). Our favorite Vietnamese place in town. Love the calamari salad, the crepes, the hotpots, the green beans with tofu. Question, though: Anybody who goes there notice a slight drop-off in quality lately? Our last three visits have been a bit disappointing. Dishes a bit oilier, less calamari in the calamari salad, a couple of bland dishes, etc. Not enough to scare us off the place, but enough to cause concern. Just a strong of bad luck on our part, or a genuine trend?
3) Vivi (825 E. Rundberg Lane, in the strip mall located at the SE intersection of Rundberg and I-35, 834-8882). This place must get great lunch business, because there is never anyone there when we go for dinner. I don't want to overpraise this place; it's basically a pho joint, with a not terribly adventurous menu, but my wife can't live without the vegetable and tofu rice noodle soup, which is a well-seasoned vegetarian soup with impeccably fresh, crunchy vegetables. We basically go there so she can get her soup fix, but whatever staple I wind up ordering (lemongrass chicken or tofu, salt and pepper shrimp) always winds up fresh and tasty, too.
4) Shilla Restaurant (6406 N. IH-35, in Lincoln Village Shopping Center, 453-4111). Can't believe this place doesn't show up in the Chowhound search engine; it has displaced Korea House as our fave Korean restaurant. We had one horrible experience with the pancakes and have stayed away from them since, but everything else is great: we always get the soft tofu ji gae (a spicy soup with seafood, veggies and custard-like soft tofu) and then usually order a bulgogi dish or jap chae (all of which are terrific) and if we head over with friends, one of the giant $20+ hop pots, which feed many happy people.
5) Sasha's Gourmet Russian Market (7817 Rockwood Lane, 459-1449). Recently moved from its old 2222/MoPac location to this spot across from the Sun Harvest off Anderson. I basically go there to get a helping of the best fresh half-sour pickles in town (shipped in from NYC every week). Haven't tried the tantalizing looking pickled mushrooms, but I can't hold out much longer . . .
6) Chola (2601 S. I 35, located across from Home Depot in the big Wal-Mart strip mall in Round Rock, off exit 250; 244-2222). Just went there for the first time last weekend for the Saturday buffet. Enjoyed ourselves immensely. My wife, who is Indian, quibbled with a couple of dishes, but was generally very pleased. The goat curry was terrific!
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