Are you looking for Xiao Long Bao or Soup Dumplings in Austin, Texas? There’s really only less than a few places that serve Shanghai-style Xiao Long Bao in Austin. Even with the selective restaurants who do have this dish, their soup dumplings do taste absolutely delicious. One restaurant, in particular, is at Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, located downtown on West 6th Street, just west of Whole Foods and Clark’s Oyster Bar.
Just a heads up that my background is half Chinese on the Cantonese side of the spectrum and so my review of this place is coming from that point of view. This review is based on my real experience at this restaurant and is not a sponsored post. But if Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum would ever love to invite me back so I can review a few more dishes and share it with my viewers, I’d love to!Cee
How Authentic is Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum?
The short answer is yes, Lin Asian Bar + Dim sum is pretty authentic. Customers who frequently visit Wu Chow will see quite the resemblance on the menu because the original dim sum chef at Wu Chow is actually the founder of this restaurant. Her name is Chef Ling Qi Wu, who worked continuously alongside Executive Chef Ji Ping Chen at Wu Chow until she founded her own business with her husband, Jimmy Ng.
When Wu Chow opened up their doors in late 2015, these two chefs were leading the upscale Wu Chow bringing authentically prepared Chinese food to downtown Austin. Austin has been long-awaiting for Wu Chow to open up ever since it was announced back in 2013. Both chefs, Ji Ping Chen and Ling Qi Wu are Chinese-born from Fuzhou City, Fujian Province and their culinary skills excel in Sichuan and Shanghainese cuisines. Ling Qi Wu left Wu Chow in 2018 to open up her own venture with Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum that specializes in soup dumplings and dim sum.
The greatest part of Chef Wu’s background is she’s a female entrepreneur who is a boss lady at best – helping establish a foundational layer of understanding with her achievements starting at Wu Chow and then establishing her own business to increase the visibility and availability of Chinese cuisine in downtown Austin. That’s just freaking incredible and I’m so happy to learn more about the originality and back story of Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, which makes me appreciate the food and restaurant interior and exterior design even more. It’s so good, that Martha Stewart popped by to dine here while she was in Austin for SXSW. Chef Ling has been welcoming many celebrities in addition to Martha Stewart to her restaurant such as Chef Mathew Peters, winner of the 2017 Bocuse d’Or Cooking Competition, Sam Ehlinger, Texas Longhorn Quarterback
What Time To Go
If you are going just for dim sum, I’d highly suggest getting there right when it opens at 10:30 am on Saturday or Sunday. They have dim sum available from 10:30 am to 3:00 pm on the weekends, and then Ling’s team takes a two-hour break to prepare for the dinner from 5:00 pm to 10:00 pm.
For example for us, a party of three, we didn’t make any reservations and showed up at 10:15 am, and although we were the first to be waiting outside, right when we were seated, 10 parties showed up immediately and 65% of the restaurant was already full. And then within the next 10 minutes, the entire restaurant was full. Though this isn’t a surprise as all dim sum places usually operate in this way and it is a natural expectancy that both the customers and restaurant are ready to start eating when their restaurant door opens for business.
If you want to hang out with your colleagues or friends after work to grab a drink and some small bites, Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum opens their doors at 5 pm during the weekdays.
For those who like to make sure to reserve in advance to ensure you have a table with your party, they are now accepting reservations for lunch, dinner, and Sunday dim sum brunch for parties of six or under. If you have a party of 7 or want to rent the entire restaurant, they kindly ask for you to email them at email@example.com or call them at (512) 474-5107.
Where to Park
In Austin, parking is free at the meters on Sundays, so if you find and a parking spot on the street, grab it! Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum has a great map that shows some quick tips when it comes to parking near the restaurant. The easiest street parking to check out first is between 5th and 6th street on Walsh Street.
Exterior Design and Atmosphere
Like many Austin establishments such as those on Rainey Street or East Austin, a lot of ventures will take a house and renovate it to their needs. It’s a great location, and it’s hard to miss when driving down 5th street or even walking by because of the number of red lanterns they have hanging from inside the porch’s rooftop.
With their cozy number of high-top tables and a wrap-around bar outside, it’s great for the Austin vibe during our hot, sunny days. During the winter, they have electric heaters for those who are eating and drinking outside. In the evening, it can get crowded, but you’ll be able to spot from afar of how busy the restaurant is.
Interior Design and Atmosphere
When you walk in through its iconic lucky red door, your eyes are greeted with a lovely view of a stunning bar and a brick mural of a historic Chinese lady with the iconic red lucky dress holding a yellow parasol. If you look up, you’ll see a bunch of real, yellow parasols hanging upside down to you. Your host will take care of you on the right side, and you’ll be taken to your table or to the bar. There are about ten seats at the wrap-around bar.
Their interior design is definitely inspired by the vintage roaring 20s in Old Shanghai – with the dark wooden table, chairs and lightly color accents such as teal and gold. Hues of blue around the table but surrounding with a warm lit atmosphere gives you a comfortable feeling where you feel like you are transported back to a time a little bit. When you are seated, you will have in front of you wooden chopsticks engraved with Lin’s logo, wrapped with a cotton serviette on a white plate, blue-rimmed water cup, and a teal ceramic dipping miniature bowl that has a lovely 3D animal inside for an extra level of sophistication that adds to the whole dining experience.
Another cool addition they have added is that the separator between the dining area for customers and the kitchen are stacks of wooden box steams with Lin’s signature logo on it. It’s always nice to see the flow of work when it comes to Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings), and I think this was their solution to see the busy-like environment, but at the same time, you don’t see all the good craziness that happens in the kitchen! There are an additional 5 bar seats available for customers to dine in.
What Type of Food is Served
The name of the restaurant includes “dim sum” which is a style of Chinese cuisine where you have small bite-size portions (like tapas) served with hot tea to hold a conversation with friends and family. Dim sum is generally considered as Cantonese and is also known as “yum cha”. “Yum cha” literally means to drink tea, and “dim sum” is the actual cuisine being served at the restaurant.
At Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, they do not serve dim sum on carts like most traditional establishments. This isn’t a big deal or even a sign that they aren’t authentic if you are new to this experience. A lot of restaurants operate like Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, where you order on the piece of paper provided and you put the number of the quantity you want for each dish.
Do note that jasmine tea is the only available option for hot tea at Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum.
This is their dim sum menu as of March 2020:
- Japanese Mint Cucumber Margarita, $7
- White Wine Sangria, $5
- Sautéed Taiwanese Bok Choy, $10
- Sautéed Shanghai Baby Bok Choy, $10
- Snow Crab Ball (qty 2), $15
- Shrimp Stuffed Chinese Eggplant (qty 3), $8
- Potato Shrimp Ball (qty 3), $8
- Salt and Pepper Shrimp, $12
- Crispy Turnip Cake (qty 3), $8
- Chao Shou, $10
- Dan Dan Noodle, $7
- Scallion Pancake Curry Dip, $10
- Szechuan Spicy Cucumber, $6
- Spare Ribs and Black Bean Sauce, $8
- Chicken with Cashew Dumpling (qty 5), $8
- Beef Potstickers (qty 5), $10
- Shrimp Har Kaw (qty 5), $10
- Fried Han Sui Gok (qty 2), $7
- Pork and Shrimp Sui Mai (qty 5), $9
- Chicken Shiitake Sui Mai (qty 5), $9
- Cilantro Shrimp Dumpling (qty 5), $9
- Basil Chicken Dumpling (qty 5), $8
- Steam BBQ Pork Bun (qty 3), $8
- Shanghai Soup Dumpling (qty 5), $11
- Seafood Soup Dumpling (qty 1), $10
- Congee, $8
- Chicken Feet (qty 4), $8
- Pan Fried Beef Bao (qty 3), $7
- Sugarcane Shrimp (qty 3), $10
- Chinese Sausage Sticky Rice, $8
- Chicken Taro Egg Roll (qty 3), $6
- Curry Beef Puff (qty 2), $6
- Steam Egg Cream Bun (qty 2), $4
- Egg Custard Tart (qty 2), $5
- Sesame Ball (qty 2), $4
- Pineapple Puff (qty 2), $6
- Baked BBQ Pork Bun (qty 2), $5
- Baked Egg Cream Bun (qty 2), $5
Cee’s Review of Dim Sum Dishes
Overall, I would definitely come here again and again with friends and family for a wonderful, beautifully crafted Shanghai-style cuisine. My tastebuds are more Cantonese-led so please be understanding of my food critique when comparing and reviewing the dishes from other dim sum hot spots in other cities.
Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai Soup Dumplings)
Out of all the dishes, the Xiao Long Bao came out last for us, but it makes sense because that’s usually the case for a lot of other places such as Din Tai Fung (global Taiwanese franchise specializing in Xiao Long Bao). There are 5 pieces of soup dumplings per order, steamed on a bedding of baking paper with multiple holes to quickly steam the dumplings more, and also to remove any additional moisture that could be collected at the bottom which would change the taste of the flour texture at the bottom of the dumpling, from perfectly cooked to soggy. Chef Wu is awesome. Ok so besides that point, let’s look at the dough.
The dough used for Xiao Long Bao is slightly thicker than other places to hold more ingredients and the soup within the dumpling. So, even though you are only getting a quantity of 5 dumplings, you are getting a lot more with each bite in comparison to other places. Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum doesn’t really have much difference in how they twist and turn the dough in place, except that at the top, they leave a bit of dough at the very top to create a small opening. Honestly, I would love to talk to the chef one day as to why she chose to have a thicker dough as I wonder if this is due to the new introduction of Xiao Long Bao in the Austin, Texas area where “grabbing” the dough may be an unpleasant experience to newcomers who aren’t using to more fragile and delicate soup dumplings. And just for you to know, the dough isn’t thick, I’m just talking about a very small difference between the comparison of dough.
Foodie tip: Put the entire bao (dumpling), in your mouth. These soup dumplings aren’t supposed to be eaten with a couple of bites – it ruins the whole experience then. With one bite, you’ll experience the lovely flow of soup that engulfs your tastebuds with each chew of the meat. It’s a whole process that sounds full-on because it is.
As for the taste, it’s excellent. It really is – the balanced but deep flavor of the broth doesn’t overpower the meat in the middle. The dumpling meat isn’t tough in texture since it is steamed. It’ll softly separate with each bite, leaving you for wanting more.
There isn’t a definitive way on how to correctly eat Xiao Long Bao, but it is best served with the dumpling dipped in a ratio of 1:3 soy sauce and vinegar. At Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum, you don’t have to worry about figuring out how to master the sauce ratio because Chef Wu has already thought about that and have done it for you. Chef Wu has definitely provided her flair of dipping sauce as it is redder than your usual dipping sauce for Xiao Long Bao. She also has precut strips of fresh ginger in the sauce. If I were you, just to savor the natural taste of the Xiao Long Bao, eat a bao without dipping in the sauce, and then dip your second bao into the sauce. It’s kind of like eating pho, taste the broth first before adding your Hoisin and Sriacha sauce.
We ordered two plates of Xiao Long Bao, and that was more than enough for three people to share with other dishes on the table. If you are eating by yourself and all you want from this place is soup dumplings, order two plus some tea. With a large party of 5 and more, I’d definitely order at the very least 6 orders of Xiao Long Bao, as it will take some time to come out and you wouldn’t want to straggle ordering this dish as it does need a certain amount of time to steam before it comes to your table.
Pork and Shrimp Sui Mai (Shumai Dumplings)
The Pork and Shrimp Sui Mai (another spelling for this that is widely used is Shumai) do not allow you to skimp out on experiencing these heavenly “open-faced” Shanghai-style dumplings at Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum. Shumai is basically a dumpling packed with a mixture of pork and shrimp and a vegetable such as chives, wrapped with a very thin dough. This regional taste is pretty amazing to come by in the USA, and I think that is all thanks to Chef Wu who specializes in regional Chinese cuisine. What makes her shumai different to Cantonese-style shumai is that Chef Wu packs the meat in – to the point that it isn’t fully fluffy with too many air pockets within taking a bite half-way through. Also, the most distinguished element of her shumai is that she uses small baby shrimp that is mixed in after the meat paste has been blended. In this way, the baby shrimp is in its natural form (not blended) and you can taste the texture of the crunch from the shell of the baby shrimp. It’s a delightful surprise in texture for folks like myself who aren’t used to having a coarse texture within a shumai.
My favorite way to eat shumai is to either eat it with about ¼ teaspoon of soy sauce poured over the top after I poke a hole in the middle of the shumai with my chopstick. I love sauce, so this is a little unique habit of mine. But let’s say, if I’m craving for more spice in my food journey during dim sum moments, I’ll dip it in sriracha sauce or red chili paste in hot oil. Yep… sauce is everything (to me).
Steam BBQ Pork Bun
I’ve got a lot to say about this BBQ Pork Bun because of years of privilege eating so many of these buns from a lot of different places, so bear with me! The dough is great – it’s fluffy and steams well where it is easily separable when breaking open the bun into halves. The overall size of the bun is nice, it’s not too small, but it’s not too big either. However, where I felt a bit cheated on was the core of the bun, the marinated pork meat. The meat inside of the BBQ Pork Bun (Char Siu Bao), for me that is, lacks two things: 1) flavor of the char siu sauce and meat and 2) the distinctive and visually light redness of the char siu,
Ok, let me break this down for you.
Char siu sauce is a salty, spicy-sweet sauce often used for Cantonese-style barbecue. It’s an incredibly beautiful sauce that is supposed to give your tastebuds an immediate hit of contrasts between salty and sweet with a tingling hint of five-spice powder to enhance the flavor of the pork meat. It’s a signature sweetness that many business owners guards with their lives and pass the master recipe down from one generation to another.
The distinctive and visually appealing red coloration of the meat and sauce is truly artificial and I can totally understand why Chef Wu would not use any food coloring (not sure, just assuming here), due to her restaurant values of using organic ingredients and farm to table natural produce.
Now, I’m not saying this BBQ Pork Bun is bad – it’s freaking delicious and well worth the order as part of your dim sum experience at Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum and I will order it again when I go back there with friends and family. I just wished it was just a tad bit more flavorful in a Cantonese-style within the marinade for me to fall truly in love with it as a foodie.
Chinese Sausage Sticky Rice
First of all, I was absolutely astonished by the modern presentation of the Chinese Sausage Sticky Rice dim sum dish where it is laid out within a bamboo weaved cylinder container, rather than traditional bamboo leaves. I thought it was super cute and totally grammable. I do understand that Shanghai-style sticky rice (zongzi) only really has a few key ingredients: Chinese sausage, chestnuts, and the sticky rice itself. I’m not sure if they mixed any chestnuts in this – but what I do know is they definitely added a ton of small pieces of Chinese black mushrooms (shiitake mushrooms). If you are like me, and you’re one of the very rare small percentages of folks who are not a fan of Chinese black mushrooms, it is truly utilized in the sticky rice and an overbearing flavor that will stick with your tastebuds for about half of the day.
In other words, I just wasn’t the biggest fan, but I could see how it could be an amazingly popular and recommended dish for the majority who l loves Chinese black mushrooms. The Chinese pork sausage used was pretty good, though because it is Shanghai-style zongzi, the pieces of sausages are minced rather than if you were to eat Cantonese-style sticky rice wrapped in bamboo, you have large pieces of sauces where the sausage fat marinates within the sticky rice.
They definitely have an array of sauces, unlike Wu Chow, where it’s impossible to even ask for sriracha sauce, available for you. Whether you are looking for soy sauce, sriracha sauce, hot chili paste in oil sauce – they have it. And honestly, it’s all down to personal preference on how you like you dip your dim sum. Because this restaurant is a Shanghai-style cuisine, the red hot chili paste in oil sauce will be a better companion to your dim sum dishes.
Even after writing up this article for y’all, I’m hungry again for dim sum. Must go back, again! Hope y’all check out this absolutely go-to gem in downtown Austin when you and your friends/family are cravings for Shanghai-style cuisine or simply just Xiao Long Bao (soup dumplings)! The interior is super cute and is so different from other restaurant establishments vibes in Austin. Let me know how you like Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum in the comments below, and please suggest any other dishes I should be looking out for next time!
Lin Asian Bar + Dim Sum
1203 W 6th St, Austin, TX 78703
Dim Sum Brunch 1030am – 3pm
Dinner 5pm – 10pm
Monday – Thursday
Lunch 11am – 2pm
Dinner 5pm – 10pm
Lunch 11am – 2pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm
Dim Sum Brunch 1030am – 3pm
Dinner 5pm – 11pm