Austin American-Statesman - - FOOD & DRINK - Con­tact Matthew Odam at 512-912-5986. Twit­ter: @odam

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.

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