think about authority with an amazing Donald TrumpChairman Mao mashup portrait hanging near the restrooms. The modernity and middle finger pair well with the Bad Hombre cocktail ($12), a smoky-spicy-and-sweet mezcal drink that signifies a serious bar staff, in the dining room that blends contemporary design touches with classic Chinese floral prints and paper lanterns.
Match the energy of a room thumping along to A Tribe Called Quest and Toots and the Maytals by bringing your palate to attention with Szechuan fried chicken, zipped by a trio of peppers, battered lightly with rice flour and cornstarch and fried to a clean, crunchy finish ($8). Follow that heat with the tangy sweetness of tender pork ribs sticky with a black vinegar glaze that clings to the meat as it falls from the bone (one of several dishes priced at $8.88, in honor of the Chinese number indicating good fortune).
The cucumber salad ($7) does the hot-cool dance as tendrils of the vegetable awash in mala vinaigrette stretch across the earthy base notes of wood ear mushrooms. Elevate the salad with the version that adds jellyfish ($10) for a more impactful crunch and a hint more salt.
The spicy heat comes in late and slow on that salad that begins with a cool snap, but if you want more fiery immediacy, turn to the kung pao cauliflower ($8.88). A flash fry gives a dark auburn finish to the split knobs piqued with chili oil, red chilies and shishitos, and a mixture of toasted peanuts and cashews gives a crunchiness and aggressive but not overwhelming salty finish.
It’s easy to balk when you see a dish like pineapple beef ($16), the mind retreating to visions of gloopy sauces packed with corn-syrupy sweetness. But the flank steak here, zipped with a pineapple chili sauce and dotted with caramelized chunks of fresh fruit, speaks to thoughtful execution. The same is true with cumin beef amplified by Anaheim peppers and cooled by cilantro ($12) in a dish of slippery wheat noodles.
The noodles, which the restaurant doesn’t make in
house, are serviceable if not spectacular and best served hot, proven by a boring dish of cold noodles with chicken thigh ($9) that tasted like the last of the leftovers, but without any depth. It was one of only a few misfires on multiple visits, one of the others being a mapo eggplant that, while buzzy with orange peel and ginger, had moved toward mush ($10). That dish stood in sharp contrast to the kitchen’s expert handling of crunchy and savory Chinese broccoli ($8.25) with roasted, almost candied, garlic, and equally impressive bok choy glistening with sweet-soy vinaigrette.
The chefs play the Texas card by acknowledging local traditions and bounty while honoring Chinese food in a sweet-and-crunchy shrimp dish ($16) served with candied pecans and a pool of honey curd (a puddle of it would have sufficed), and they fall into the everything’sbetter-with-brisket trap with fried rice studded with aromatic Chinese sausage and dried bits of Micklethwait brisket ($16). I much preferred the Chinese take on barbecue, with the tender folds of rosy roasted pork (char siu) stuffed inside springy steamed buns ($18).
You’ll recognize the char siu, and I can almost guarantee you will love it, but one of the things that makes Old Thousand special is what they do when they surprise you. You will beg for more tiny quail eggs warmed from a bath of green tea and soy ($8.88) perched on islands of tofu puree at the end of a tangle of startlingly fresh mustard greens, and a large bowl of sunchoke fried rice ($12) contains a variety of crunch and texture from pickled sunchokes, sunflower sprouts, Chinese long beans and toasty sunchoke chips.
I don’t know the exact inspiration for the dish. But I know it was dope.
The pork ribs are lacquered with black vinegar glaze.
The kung pao cauliflower with red chili and toasted nuts is one of the spiciest dishes at Old Thousand.
Old Thousand uses brisket from nearby Micklethwait Craft Meats for this fried rice dish.
Dan dan noodles sit beneath crispy tofu, a soft egg, bok choy and chili relish.
Sunchokes come in pickled and chip form in this fried rice dish at Old Thousand.