Tasting Austin: China Cafe by Phoenix

Last night we visited China Cafe by Phoenix to celebrate our friend Leti’s recent promotion and raise. Justin had visited this place a few times, since it’s near his work, and he took me to try it out last weekend. It was so good, I had to drag Leti there, too.

I’m not sure who Phoenix is, but I think there is another China Cafe in Austin, so the “by Phoenix” may distinguish the two. The restaurant is pretty small, with only 15 to 20 tables, one waiter, and one hostess (at least that’s how it was both times we visited). The staff is incredibly nice, and Cecile, the hostess, is quick to remember food preferences and names (she remembered that I didn’t like spicy food, and that Justin did).

Unfortunately, my review is pretty limited, because we’ve ordered the same thing both times, the Sesame Tofu. It would be hard for me to try anything else…it’s so good. The only thing Justin has ever missed about eating meat was Sesame or General Tso’s Chicken, and this tofu is the best substitute he’s found. The tofu is deep fried, crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle, covered in a sweet, (spicy if you want) delicious sauce and sesame seeds. Ah, the sauce. It’s brilliant.

The waiter brings out crunchy noodles when he brings out your drinks, and we found these perfect for dropping into our soups.

I had egg drop soup, which was surprisingly good. I’m pretty picky about soups, and most egg drop soups I’ve tried have this weird burnt flavor in them. This was pure, delicious broth (most likely chicken) with strands of egg.

Justin and Leti had the hot and sour soup, which was also very tasty, a little more spicy, with green onions and bits of tofu.

The egg rolls are more like spring rolls, with thin wrappers surrounding shredded veggies, deep-fried and perfectly crunchy.

During lunch, you can order the Lunch Special, which includes the egg roll, choice of soup, either fried or steamed rice, and your entree, for somewhere between $5.25 and $6.95 (the Sesame Tofu is $5.95). At dinner, everything is a la carte, so you’d have to order everything separately (soups are $1.50, egg rolls are $1.00, and the Sesame Tofu with steamed rice is $7.25). The menu is huge, with the usual pork, beef, chicken, or seafood specialties, plus several options for vegetables and tofu.

I have to recommend this place, not just for the tofu, but for the caring, attentive service. Cecile goes out of her way to make sure your meal is relaxed and delicious. We’ll definitely be back soon.

China Cafe by Phoenix
3901B Spicewood Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78759

6 responses to “Tasting Austin: China Cafe by Phoenix”

  1. Wow. I want to go to Austin now…

  2. I tried to do it, but I’m just not brave enough to bring my camera out in a restaurant. I went out to Kirby Lane (the original with a friend who I know wouldn’t have cared one bit. I had my camera in my bag, but I just chicken out. I’ve never really thought of myself as shy before, but I guess this is where it comes out.

    Anyway, I’ll have to give China Cafe by Phoenix a try, I must have driven by it a million times, but I’ve never noticed it before.

  3. That sounds and looks like a fabulous meal. Have you ever had fried seaweed? It’s salty and sweet and crunchy. I encountered it in England but I wouldn’t know where to begin to source it on this side of the pond.

  4. Lora, maybe you can just keep carrying it with you, and someday you might take the next step and pull it out. 🙂 It doesn’t really bother me much, even though my camera’s fairly large. I just haul it out, smile a lot, and shoot away! Pearl, I don’t think I’ve tried fried seaweed. I’ll have to look out for it, too.

  5. That looks great! And its right down the street from where my sister lives. I’ll have to check it out next time I visit her.
    Re: being “camera shy”. Sometimes I feel like an ass taking pics at the table, but I usually do it anyway. It also depends on the place, the other customers, and my mood. People will probably just think you’re a tourist.

  6. I use to feel the same way about taking random pictures in public too. So I guess once I do it a couple times I’ll feel more comfortable with th whole idea.
    I wanted to let you know that we went there last night. No way was I cooking.
    I had the eggplant and garlic which I highly recommend. I was very pleasantly suprised. Very nice atmosphere.

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