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).
Broiled or fried. Those are your only options at Pacific Star Restaurant & Oyster Bar. But people who make all their life decisions by flipping a coin don't seem to mind—and neither do the other customers. This includes Rob Balon, a food critic for Fox 7, who said, "Pacific Star is the kind of restaurant where you can get your favorite seafood with a little kick."
He's referring to appetizers, such as shrimp-and-oyster cocktail and fried crab fingers, and entrees, which are divided into fried and broiled categories. On the fried side, there are jumbo shrimp, catfish, and gulf oysters, and the broiler churns out stuffed flounder and jumbo crawfish tails. Plus, the menu even showcases a handful of Cajun favorites such as crawfish étouffée and crawfish pirogue.
In 1912, George Kamburis set sail from Patmos, Greece. Once in America, he made his way to Montgomery, Alabama, and began peddling ice cream from a cart. He eventually saved enough money to buy a fruit stand and then a café—the Coffee Pot. Sadly, that eatery burned down, but with the help of his brother, George soon opened a new restaurant, the Normandy Café. Today, George’s grandchildren have recreated his vision, this time giving the restaurant a contemporary name and contemporary cuisine: Satellite Bistro & Bar.
Although the bistro’s menu pays homage to the Kamburis family's Greek roots with Mediterranean dishes such as steak gyros and flaming saganaki cheese, its chefs draw inspiration from around the globe. Entrees of oven-roasted chicken, seared diver scallops, and bone-in french-cut pork chops are glazed in sauces ranging from an orchid beurre blanc to a cognac cream sauce. Latin influences show in fish tacos and enchiladas, and Asian traditions yield thai stir-fry and jumbo shrimp paired with mango and wontons. During weekend brunches, innovative creations such as ice-cream-battered french toast and panko-breaded salmon croquettes grace the table.
These modernized dishes are surrounded by equally modern decor dreamt up by Michael Hsu. Photomurals featuring an astronaut and a cityscape surround diners who perch on azure seats amid cherry-red countertops and stone pillars. On summery days, guests lounge on stuffed couches on the patio and pretend the sun is more than just a giant light bulb screwed into the sky. When the weekend comes round, musicians tickle the ivories on a baby grand in the lounge, evoking Ray Charles and Harry Connick Jr. As they listen, audiences sip wines from California and Argentina or martinis and specialty cocktails.
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.