ChenZ

A group of us went to ChenZ the other night to celebrate a friend’s birthday.  I wasn’t sure what to expect since the restaurant opened only about a month ago, and there were mixed reviews on Yelp.

The moment we stepped foot inside, I was surprised.  It did not look like the “typical” Chinese restaurant.  The decor was modern, the lighting was dim, and things looked slightly upscale.

For a moment I panicked and thought I was in for a PF Chang’s experience.  Nothing against PF Chang’s, but I was just planning for authentic Chinese food at ChenZ.

After glancing at the menu, I was a little more reassured.  I noticed that the noodles and dumpling skins were made in-house.  AWESOME.  I feel like nowadays, most places just use frozen crap.

Another plus was that the menu was varied without being overwhelming.  My husband commented that one thing that often puts people off from going to Chinese restaurants is the complicated menu.  It can be frustrating trying to decide on what to eat.

Anyway, we had no problem making our selection.  There were 8 of us, so we ordered a ton of food to share.

Duck Noodles and Beef Noodle Soup

I didn’t get to try the beef noodle soup.  It was on the other side of the table most of the night, and I was too full by the time it made its way over to me.  The duck noodles were all right.  They were covered in hoisin sauce.

Lamb Noodles and Spinach Pork Fried Dumplings

I thought the lamb noodles were really good.  I think the noodles were made of buckwheat.  The texture and taste of the lamb was spot on…not too gamy, perfectly juicy, not overly flavored (which often happens with lamb).  The dumplings were nice and crispy on the outside.

Dumplings and Ja Jang Mein

Honestly, these dumplings were forgettable.  They weren’t bad, but they weren’t AMAZING.  I also found it a little odd that one order consisted of 20 dumplings, and they wouldn’t let us do a half order.  The ja jang mein (炸醬麵) was pretty good.  It didn’t taste like what I’m used to (a little strong on the peanut sauce), but it was still good.

Chili Oil Wontons

I can’t remember the exact name of this dish, but it’s basically wontons in chili oil sauce.  It wasn’t that spicy, which was perfectly fine with me since I have a low threshold for spiciness.

Pork Sesame Bun Wrap

These sesame seed bun thingies (燒餅…I’m not sure how to say this in English) had pork inside.  It almost reminded me of 胡椒餅 (Pepper pie? Pepper bun? Again, I’m not sure how this is translated into English).  The meat had a nice ginger kick to it, but it was a bit dry.  I really liked the outer part, though.

Green Onion Crepe

I’ve often heard this dish called “green onion pie”, “green onion pancake”, “scallion pancake”, scallion pie”, etc.  It’s called 蔥油餅 in Chinese.  I think you can figure out what’s in it.  It’s basically dough fried flat like a pancake with bits of scallion in it.  ChenZ made it really crispy and flaky.  It was great alone, but I think it would’ve been phenomenal if they also gave soy sauce with bits of garlic chopped in it for dipping.  That’s how it’s normally eaten.

Hot Pot Menu

So, this is what sets ChenZ apart from other Chinese restaurants in Austin…hot pot! ChenZ currently holds the title of the only restaurant in Austin to serve this.  If you’ve never had hot pot, you basically get to cook your food at your table.  Some people have trouble understanding this concept.  “Wait wait wait, you want me to pay to cook my own food??” It sounds silly, but I’m still a fan of it.  You get a huge pot of broth, and then you choose which veggies, meat, and other things to cook in it.  When the food is done cooking, you can dip it in different sauces.  You can also choose different flavors of broth.

Unfortunately, we were too full to order hot pot.  I’ll have to go back another time just to try this.

The bill came out to $87 (including tax, excluding tip).  For all the food we ordered, I thought it was a steal.

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Beware the Angry Delivery Man from Dragon Gate by Phoenix

I just posted this review on Yelp about Dragon Gate by Phoenix.

“My colleagues and I have ordered from Dragon Gate quite a few times since they deliver to our office.  However, after today’s experience, I don’t think I will ever order from them again.

The first time we ordered, I volunteered to call.  I guess Dragon Gate decided to save my name and extension as the permanent contact for our company.

We never had problems with this restaurant in the past.  We actually thought the food was decent, portions were big, prices were reasonable, and wait was never long.

Just a while ago, I got a phone call on my extension.  I barely said hello before the man on the other line said loudly and rudely, “Delivery! I am locked out! You locked me out!”

Um, OK.  I didn’t order delivery, but I decided to go and open the door for him (we don’t have a receptionist at the moment).  I figured the customer’s name would be on the ticket.  Anyway, I opened the door, and he immediately said, “$15.02!” I asked to look at the name on the ticket.  I was surprised to see it was MY name…misspelled.

I said that I was the person on the ticket, but I didn’t order and the info must’ve been saved from the last time I called.  He gave an exasperated sigh and said “I’m very busy! I have so  many deliveries this afternoon. I don’t have time for this!” I invited him to wait AT THE ENTRANCE while I figured out who had ordered.

Well, the delivery man pushed his way in, walked into our office, and started yelling (I kid you not), “WHO ORDERED FOOD? DELIVERY! WHO ORDERED FOOD?” I told him to please wait while I found out.  He kept yelling, and EVERYONE was standing up looking over their cubicle walls in confusion at this frazzled delivery man.  Finally, I found the person who had ordered from Dragon Gate.  She went to deal with him, but it turned out it wasn’t her order.

I’m not sure what happened, but the delivery man left in a huff.

I know this is just one instance out of the several times we have ordered.  But I don’t want to risk getting this man again.

Today’s fiasco created some laughs, but it was pretty embarrassing considering we had an interviewee in the office at the time.  Let’s hope Dragon Gate holds an employee etiquette course because the man’s behavior was not professional one bit.”

Pugapalooza 2012 was a success!

OMG, never have I seen so many pugs in one place! Yesterday was insane.  We went to Austin Canine Central for Pugapalooza.  I did not expect to meet so many pugs and pug owners.  It was great.  I was really hoping for Mac (my dog) to meet other furry friends since he hasn’t had the chance to socialize much since we moved here, but he kept running from other dogs and jumping into people’s laps.

There were fat pugs, thin pugs, old pugs, young pugs, fawn pugs, black pugs, puggles (pug/beagle mixes), chugs (chihuahua pug mixes), and even other non-pug dogs!

The costume contest was super cute.  I didn’t get too many clear pictures since none of the contestants would stay still long enough, but here’s one shot I got of “Willie Nelson”.  He had the best costume in my opinion.

Mac was pooped!

Chuck (the black pug) meeting a non-pug friend
Although Chuck doesn't have use of all four legs, he sure is a quick one! He's up for adoption.

Here's Old Boy. He's about 12 YO, slightly blind and deaf. He's such a sweetheart!

Pugs sure love treats!

PUGAPALOOZA 2012, BABY!

I cannot wait for this upcoming weekend.  Not because I don’t have to work (well, that’s part of the reason), but because the Pug Rescue of Austin is holding Pugapalooza!

What is Pugapalooza? According to the Pug Rescue of Austin’s website, it is a “family-friendly event [that] will dwarf any SXSW event!” There will be a live band, pizza, drinks, and I will personally bake brownies.  You can even dress up your pug in rock-n-roll attire or as your favorite musician and enter him/her in the costume contest.  How cute will that be?

And if you’re one of those judgmental few who think it’s ridiculous to dress up your pets, then keep quiet for this one day because this is all for a GREAT cause.  The proceeds will go towards helping out the “orphans” of the Pug Rescue of Austin.  This organization would not be able to pay for all the neutering/spaying, medication, check-ups, etc. without generous donations from the community.

So, come out and enjoy live music, eat yummy food, and meet other pug-loving friends!

See YOU Saturday, March 24th from 1 – 3 pm at Austin Canine Central!

Buca di Beppo

My aunt, uncle, and cousins came up from Houston for Spring Break.  We went to Buca di Beppo for lunch.  Although this restaurant isn’t unique to Austin, I was pretty sure they would like it.  Italian is always a good choice when you go with a group of people because there are so many different types of dishes to cater to everyone’s tastes.

I thought Buca only served family-style meals, but it turns out that they serve individual entrees during lunch.  We still ended up ordering off of the family-style menu.  For this, there are two options: small-sized portions (recommended for 2 people) and large (recommended for 4). We ordered a small salad and three small entrees thinking it would be just right for the six of us.  We ended up with a lot of leftovers!

I was pleased with all of the dishes.  My aunt and uncle also ordered a cup of the Italian sausage soup.  They both really liked that.

I’m actually really looking forward to eating the leftovers later since I was quite satisfied with our meal.  Take a look at the pictures:

1

Chopped Antipasto Salad - "Diced pepperoni, red onions, pepperoncini peppers, cucumbers, provolone, feta and Gorgonzola cheeses, tossed with our fresh lettuce blend in our signature Italian vinaigrette."

3

Penne San Remo - "Tender chicken breast, artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes and peas tossed with imported Italian penne pasta in a white wine cream sauce."

4

Supremo Italiano - "Our heartiest offering – chunks of ground beef and spicy Italian sausage mixed with strips of pepperoni, bell peppers and onions, all on top of red sauce and cheese."

2

Baked Rigatoni - "Our rich meat sauce and spicy Italian sausage tossed with imported Italian rigatoni and lots of mozzarella. Topped with Parmesan and dollops of ricotta cheese then baked to golden perfection."

Painting with a Twist

This past week, my company organized a Painting with a Twist event.  You might be asking, “What is Painting with a Twist?”  Basically, you attend an art class held at any Painting with a Twist location and paint (duh)! They provide all the materials — canvas, acrylic paints, aprons, etc.  The twist is that you can B.Y.O.B.!

It’s $35 per person for a 2-hr painting, $45 for a 3-hr one.  My colleagues and I did a 3-hour painting of the 360/Pennybacker Bridge since our office is located right by it.

Frankly, I lack any artistic ability and was a little doubtful of how my painting would turn out.  But I must say I was impressed with my final product! The instructors were super nice and walked you step by step through the process.  I really appreciated the fact that they did not tell you how your painting was supposed to look. If you wanted to paint your sky red instead of blue, that was fine.

I definitely would like to go again.  They offer so many different paintings…you can even bring in a photo of your pet and paint that!

Take a peek at my pictures below.

Step 1

We all started off with a blank canvas, of course.

Step 2

Then, we were instructed to paint the sky and water.

Step 3

After that, we painted in waves, the shadow of the bridge, the grassy bank, hills, and clouds.

Step 3

Next, we painted in the rocks and foliage.

Step 5

Finally, we painted in the bridge! Not too shabby, right?