w is for wu chow

Swift’s Attic is one of our fave restaurants, so we were excited to (finally) give Wu Chow a try (although I’d been for lunch a couple of times in the pre-vid). Essentially chef’d up Sichuan, Wu Chow (downtown) is sleek and stylish, but for a cuisine known for heat, the dishes are oddly defanged. Take the Sichuan Fried Chicken (organic chicken thigh tossed with Sichuan peppercorns and chilis; $11), which carried the cat o’ nine tails of pepper flakes but only produced a feather dusting of pain. They were good, but when you pay the dominatrix for pain, it better hurt.

Classic Chinese cuisine does not include mixology, so in its place, Wu Chow provides fruit-forward, tiki-influenced drinks. I had a Texan’s Take on Tiki (Montelobos Mezcal, Grand Marnier, lime, avocado, cucumber, and jalapeno; $16) while The Bride tried Thymed Me Up (Zephyr Gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, lime, thyme simple syrup, and cucumber; $15); they were fruity and refreshing. For dinner, we had Fermented Black Bean Chicken (organic chicken breast with local bell peppers and onions and fermented black bean sauce; $18), Dry Fried Local Green Beans (green beans and fermented mustard greens; $15), and Chicken Steamed Dumplings (chicken thigh, ginger, garlic, scallions, sweet soy, and sesame oil; $12). The black bean dish was good, but ho-hum, again, with no heat. The dumplings and sauce were delicious, and the kitchen grilled the green beans perfectly.

I asked if they had baijiu, and they did, so I ordered a shot ($12). The last time we had sipped baijiu was in the late 80s when a visiting Chinese scientist slapped some on the table after dinner. It tasted like jet fuel. This baijiu, made by Ming River, the oldest baijiu-maker in China, was similarly intense but much more aromatic with hints of herbs. A worthy sip. Finally, we ended the evening with housemade ice cream.

Wu Chow is good, but we kept wishing for it to be less vanilla and deliver some good pain for our munch.

Wu Chow, 500 West 5th Street, (512)476-2469, www.wuchowaustin.com

A new location just opened up at 38th and Lamar.

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