The executive chef at Imperia emblazons an Asian menu full of fresh seafood and ingredients with a personal flair that has amassed seven Austin Chronicle reader accolades. Inside the stylish urban restaurant, pendant lights illuminate a marble bar winding past Asian decor, and cool slabs of bluefin sashimi stretch out on platters in the arms of attentive servers. Candles flicker across tables, as guests enjoy three-course omakase meals creatively orchestrated and handcrafted by the chef and catapulted directly into awaiting mouths.
The agile hands at Dragon Gate by Phoenix forge an array of pan-Asian classics, including ranks of meticulously rolled maki. Edamame project their delicate soy aromas, and diners tuck into such sushi rolls as the Maguro Dynasty roll, which cloaks a shrimp-tempura core in fresh tuna and caviar. Unagi, cucumber, and fresh salmon combine their palate-pleasing forces in the Tiffany roll, and the Volcano roll rolls onto taste buds with a flavorful magma of spicy baked crab, avocado, and cucumber. Chefs eschew convention like a finger-painting Leonardo da Vinci by baking california rolls and sheathing them in salmon to form the Lion King roll. Dark wooden furnishings reflect the dining room's intimate lighting, and Asian artwork adorns the walls near a teppanyaki and sushi bar for patrons eager to test Dragon Gate's culinary masterminds with knock-knock jokes.
Masala Wok's menu features new Asian, Indian, and Indian-inspired Chinese flavors. Accompany your stomach's journey down the Spice Road with an appetizer of chicken lollipops––wings with a twist ($3.99 for four, $7.49 for eight)––before choosing your favorite flavor corner of the East with a main course. Try a subcontinental delicacy such as the spicy southern curry (fish, shrimp, chicken, lamb, or paneer in a mustard-coconut curry with red peppers and curry leaves, $8.49), or head for steamy southeast Asian environs with the spicy basil plate ($7.99 for chicken, $8.25 paneer, $9 shrimp or fish). Lock lips with the orange chicken, stir fried with scallions and carrots in orange sauce ($7.99 for chicken, $8.25 paneer, $9 shrimp or fish), or skewer your stomach's overwhelming sense of emptiness with a chicken malai kabob—yogurt-marinated boneless chicken kabobs grilled with cheese, spices, and cilantro and served with rice and naan ($8.49).
Happy Bowl Asian Restaurant's spice-slinging chefs match a menu of classic Thai dishes with a casual BYOB policy. Amid seven curry selections swims the sweetly spiced salmon ($10.95) sailing through torrents of broccoli, bell peppers, and basil. Combination platters, such as chinese broccoli with crispy pork ($7.95) or beef in savory oyster sauce ($7.95) share plate space and spicy secrets with a choice of fried or steamed rice and a crunchy egg roll. Midday noshers can slurp up lunch-size portions of spicy basil noodle ($5.99) or comforting pad see ew ($5.99) before returning to less-delicious duties elsewhere.
With more than 90 buffet dishes including 30–35 hot entrees and more than 10 varieties of sushi, it’s no surprise that Buffet Palace's Austin location has been voted best buffet 12 times by Austin Chronicle readers. The similarly well-stocked Killeen location looks like a grounded spaceship from the outside, complete with a cylindrical metal cage, a Saturn-style ring, and two alien-like statues.
At each location, a modern 350-seat dining room vaunts sleek countertops and high ceilings as well as a buffet so long visiting Lilliputians regularly land planes on it. Items range from Korean-style salads and Japanese sushi to more than 30 primarily Chinese hot dishes such as sesame chicken and pan-fried dumplings.
In addition to these made-from-scratch items, a chef cooks Asian pancakes and dumplings. Before departure, diners can also stock a plate full of the buffet’s housemade desserts, which include cakes, cookies, and fruit so fresh it often gets smacked by older, wiser side dishes.
Open an Asian-American dialogue with the guidance of a wide-ranging menu and the goodwill of taste-bud ambassadors. Start off with an order of spicy Thai Dynamite shrimp served over Asian slaw (S $5.49, L $8.99) or potstickers—dumplings filled with pork, green cabbage, scallions, and ginger and served with a citrus soy dip (S $3.99, L $6.99). Rice dishes and noodle bowls, such as Spicy General Fu and Pad Thai, are priced by main star, with chicken, beef, or tofu for $8.29, shrimp for $9.29, or veggies for $7.29. After selecting a hunger weapon, dive into the eastern seas of flavor with a wok-sizzled order of fried rice, which includes bean sprouts, scallions, carrots, egg, chopped broccoli, and brown sauce, or a spice-tastic Singapore noodle bowl with rice noodles tossed in a spicy yellow curry with carrots, onions, scallions, celery, garlic, and basil. A gluten-free menu and two special seared entrees are also available: seared ahi tuna steak, encrusted in sesame and served over a bed of sautéed spinach ($14.99), and flat- iron steak, marinated in a red-wine soy sauce and served on a bed of red bell peppers, mushrooms, and green and yellow onions ($12.99).