Cool Cucumber

On Harry Hines, sea cucumbers and watermelon help an unlikely revolution at Chef Hsu

Though it can be spicy, Shandong cuisine often comes off as unnervingly mild. You have to wait for it to settle in the mouth before the complexity peeks through. Seafood noodle soup seemed flat at first plunge, though introductory rituals add interest. The soup arrives in a large bowl with house-made wheat noodles that are so long our server hovered over the bowls with a spoon and a pair of scissors, lifting them out of the broth and snipping bunches of long strands into manageable tresses. The rich chicken broth was a rat's nest of Napa cabbage, egg, shrimp, mussels, calamari and tiny towelettes of beef cragged with wide crevices separating the grain. The pieces of seafood skirted soup mushiness with firm, moist textures and clean flavors. But it was curious how the bits of egg seemed to cling to the tubes of calamari, covering the cylinders like a layer of barnacles.

Sautéed chicken with asparagus, a preparation that wouldn't look out of place in a cardboard carton (you wonder if peanuts or cashews might churn up), was a remarkably balanced and savory ensemble with bok choy, whole mushroom tops (with a racy muskiness) and bamboo shoots. The juicy chicken strips absorbed the smooth amber sauce blended from soy and oyster sauces (most of the sauces seem girded in various proportionate blends of these two staples). The vegetables are crisp, tender and bright.

Lots of restaurants serve whole fried fish, including Chinese, Latin and shacks specializing in farm-raised catfish. But Chef Hsu's whole fried snapper is laced with subtle departures. It is served with a body that has largely been eviscerated, leaving just the head, tail, fins and skeletal structure remnants. Nuggets of coated and fried creamy white fish meat are scattered over the top and tangled with strands of thinly sliced carrot and mushroom. These golden fish pieces aren't crunchy in the least. Instead, through a slathering of a mildly sweet and thick sauce, the deep-fry treatment has been softened, making the fish nuggets more like dumplings than the popcorn shrimp curls they resembled. Although the fish carcass was largely plucked clean to make these morsels, there was still plenty of meat left, mostly behind the head, for gobs of indulgent gouging. Chef Hsu's whole fish is delicious.

Don't worry, be happy: The bar at Chef Hsu is well-stocked with beers, Asian liquors and fat Buddhas.
Stephen Karlisch
Don't worry, be happy: The bar at Chef Hsu is well-stocked with beers, Asian liquors and fat Buddhas.

Location Info

Map

Chef Hsu Chinese Restaurant

11180 Harry Hines Blvd.
Dallas, TX 75229

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Northwest Dallas

Details

972-484-0808. Open 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday; 12 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Sunday. $$-$$$

Super buffet (lunch): $5.25
Super buffet (dinner): $7.95
Seafood noodle soup: $7.95
Sautéed chicken: $12.95
Sea cucumbers with asparagus: $19.95
Whole fried snapper: $29.95

11180 Harry Hines Blvd., #108

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Though there is little in this restaurant visually to suggest adventure (the décor and the "Super Buffet" sign outside suggest culinary vandalism), the imposing à la carte menu riddled with sea cucumbers and scant, cryptic English menu headings, suggests otherwise. There's adventure here. So get over there and get on with it. This could very well represent a China Town seeding on Harry Hines.

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