There's something going on with the Asian food scene in Plano. We won't call it a renaissance because that wouldn’t be fair. There has been delicious Asian food in the city for decades. I grew up there, and my fondest memories were of eating pho at Que Huong; teriyaki bento boxes at the now-shuttered Sushi Awaji; and large, family-style plates of bubbling tofu stews and cold duck wings we’d swivel around on lazy Susans at First Chinese BBQ.
What’s going on now is a noticeable shift in how much more visible that food has become — not just online and in media, but also in person. If you’ve driven around Plano in the past year or so, you might’ve noticed once-sleepy strip malls completely transformed into bustling Asian shopping plazas. These “micro-Asia Towns” not only boast a variety of Asian cuisines — from Japanese and Taiwanese to Korean and Chinese — but they’ve also grown into communities where people can shop, dine, play and deposit checks all in one place. Twenty years ago, that was almost impossible for an Asian family in Plano.
This list highlights some of the new developments — not capital “N” new, all shiny and fresh-faced, but they’ve established quite a following in the few months and years they’ve been open — to Plano's evolving food scene. Some of these restaurants are inside a micro-town; some aren’t. This is not a comprehensive list of all the great Asian eats in Plano, but it’s a start.
2049 Coit Road, Plano
Owner Gary Wang opened this Chinese street food joint in April 2017 with hopes of selling delicious crawfish to trendy Chinese millennials. Those dreams were dashed when he realized that good crawfish in the U.S. isn’t available year-round. So he pivoted. For most of the year, this modern eatery serves shared plates that you order with pencil and paper. The menu is simple but wide-ranging: You can get spicy lamb and chicken skewers, stir-fried Sichuan pork belly, Chinese duck eggs, soy-sauce fried rice, sweet fried honey buns, garlic eggplant and dry sesame noodles — and wash it all down with a pitcher of cold beer.
Wang wants to serve authentic Chinese food because he believes that is the demand right now in Plano, he says. He’s brought over recipes from his family’s restaurants in China with the goal of attracting a growing Chinese customer base. A popular dish straight from the menus back East is sour fish, white fish fillets submerged in a soup of pickled mustard greens, peppercorns, green onions and red chilis. This dish is a harmonious medley of tangy and mouth-numbing ma la spice. It takes an adventurous palate, but it’s totally delicious.
2001 Coit Road, Plano
This Taiwanese dessert cafe is always packed. Meet Fresh started in central Taiwan, and its original owners believed in the virtue of making desserts the old-fashioned way: by hand and with fresh ingredients. Taiwanese shaved ice takes center stage here, and if you’ve never had it before, it’s a lot like putting a bowl of fresh-fallen snow in your mouth. The toppings — rice balls, fruit, sweet herbal jelly, cream and red beans — sweeten the deal. It’s subtly sweet, which is pretty standard of Taiwanese desserts, and it’s also crisp and creamy, but not the heaviest thing you’ll eat that day. If you’re not craving ice, try a sweet tofu pudding or one of more than two dozen coffee and tea drinks. This cafe really takes me back to the bustling night markets in Taipei.
Jin Korean BBQ
3420 K Ave., Plano
This all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue joint in East Plano is everything you could ask for if what you’re asking for is a full-blown food coma. You have to grill your own meat, but it's all at your disposal in buffet form. There’s bulgogi, beef that’s sweetly marinated and thinly shaved; galbi, marinated beef short ribs; spicy chicken; fish; thin-cut pork belly and much more. You have to order some special cuts of meat, but the all-you-can-eat still stands.
There’s also a cold bar with kimchi and salad, but I suggest just skipping that and beelining it for the hot buffet. You’re at a barbecue joint, after all. At the hot buffet, there’s endless rice, soup and ddukbokki, spicy stir-fried rice cakes. The best part? A refreshing sweet rice punch for dessert. But, yeah, you’ll need to walk this one off at the H Mart next door.
Taipei Station Cafe
930 W. Parker Road, Plano
Taipei Station is about the closest to authentic Taiwanese food you’re going to get in North Texas. It’s tucked into one of Plano’s many sleepy strip malls, but that doesn’t stop the crowds. On weekends, Taipei Station is packed, and it’s not unimaginable to wait close to an hour to be seated. But don’t let that deter you; the line stretches past the door because the food is outstanding. In fact, Taipei Station won the Tasty Choice Award from DFW’s inaugural Asian Restaurant Week in October. There’s nothing trendy or elaborate about the interior; it’s bare bones and focused on good food.
Taipei Station has all of the Taiwanese classics, such spicy beef noodle soup with noodles made in house and meant to be slurped and savored with vigor. It's great for the impending cold weather. There are also potstickers, fried pork chops, spiced popcorn chicken, marinated pork over rice and oyster pancakes, a staple at Taiwan’s many open-air night markets. The pancake is made with oysters scrambled with potato starch and topped with a sweet sauce. The potato starch gives it a crispy exterior and gooey interior, and the natural brine of the oyster blends harmoniously with the sweet, ketchup-like gravy. Be sure to double-check the menu, though, because items rotate out depending on the day of the week.
2304 Coit Road, Plano
Secret Recipe is a beloved institution in Carrollton, and its Hainan chicken and curry laksa are so good, they made their way to a small storefront in Plano. The huge, multipage menu is an exhaustive collection of Malaysian, Singaporean and Chinese dishes, and without a doubt, there is something at Secret Recipe to satiate all the tastebuds.
Overwhelmed? Confused? Start with the roti canai, a thin, flaky flatbread that you rip apart and dip into a rich curry sauce. You also can’t go wrong with curry laksa, a creamy, coconutty curry broth ladled into a giant bowl filled to the brim with noodles and fish balls. Or try the tender and perfectly steamed Hainanese chicken over savory rice. It’s a Singaporean staple, transported and adapted from the Hainan province on the southernmost point of China. Try anything cooked with Sambal, or just order it all and pick at the dishes over the course of several hours.
85°C Bakery Cafe
107 W. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano
This Taiwanese bakery is bliss. It’s a palace of buttery baked goods enshrined in backlit shelves, put on display like crown jewels. Egg custard tarts, croissants, hot dogs baked into cheese pastry, sponge cakes, sweet buns filled with custard cream or mango jam, spinach kale danishes, cheesecake — the options are endless and overwhelming. Grab a tray and a pair of tongs and make the rounds.
I recommend doing a walk-through first, surveying the full stock and weighing your options. There’s nothing more embarrassing or frowned upon than putting a baked good back on the shelf. When your tray is stacked high with a veritable carbo-load, head to the register and order a signature 85°C coffee or an iced sea-salt jasmine green tea. The lines can get a bit crazy on the weekends, so plan accordingly. Elbows out.
Musashi Ramen & Izakaya
8200 Preston Road, Plano
Musashi keeps ramen simple, so the rich, deep umami of the broth can really sing. There's a chicken ramen with fish oil, a spicy garlic ramen and a miso butter ramen with a splash of sesame seeds. Simplicity is key here. If you want corn, bamboo or a soft-boiled egg, those are added separately. But ramen isn’t Musashi’s only jam. Customers also rave about the pork belly rice bowl. And the shared small plates, including fried gyoza, pork belly buns and fried chicken, are designed to be eaten with friends over beers and riveting conversation — how it’s done in an izakaya, or gastropub, in Japan.
3933 N. Central Expressway, Plano
If you know boba tea, you know boba tea cafes can get a little crazy, with kids studying and playing board games. There are lots of boba tea joints in Plano, and honestly, all will execute a basic boba black milk tea just fine. But the options and the consistency (and the variety of free board games) at Sharetea make this place a popular haunt.
Most drinks are customizable. Choose varying tiers of ice and sweetness, opt for regular black boba, or go wild with lychee jelly, mini bobas or even ice cream. There’s milk tea, fruit tea, brewed tea and fresh milk drinks. And while some drinks pretty much a decadent dessert poured in a cup, others — like the winter-melon tea with lemon — are light and refreshing. Top drinks include coffee milk tea, coffee cream and kiwi fruit tea with aiyu jelly. Stop by with a friend, sit back with a tasty beverage and play some Battleship. Don’t forget to ask for a punch card. You'll be back.
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Mitsuwa Marketplace food court
100 Legacy Dr., Plano
It’s too hard to pick just one thing at the Mitsuwa Marketplace, and I can safely recommend it all. At the food court, you can choose among four stalls that serve distinctly different Japanese dishes. At Matcha Love, you’ll find desserts inspired by Asian ingredients like matcha or black sesame. Its neighbor, Wateishoku Kaneda, serves classic dishes such as pork katsu curry, and Santouka’s shio ramen reportedly keeps the crowds coming back. Then you’ve got Sutadonya, home of the mighty sutadon, which translates to “stamina bowl.” In a sutadon, you get pan-fried pork belly, onions and a secret garlic soy-sauce blend served over a big bowl of steamy rice.
The food court is not big, so on weekends, it fills up quickly. But don’t fret: Mitsuwa has an expansive selection of ready-to-eat meals and sushi platters in the grocery aisles, and the bakery sells decadent concoctions such as fried curry bread and takoyaki bread, Japanese octopus dumplings baked into a savory bun. Glorious.
151 W. Spring Creek Parkway, Plano
Sichuanese food is not for everybody, especially if “mouth-numbing” is not your ideal dinner adjective. If those little chili pepper emojis by menu items are more alarming to you than appetizing, I challenge you to face your fears and give Fish House a try. This joint is no frills but full-on flavor. The Mapo tofu is savory, spicy, creamy and best ladled in spoonfuls over piping-hot white rice.
A trip to a Sichuanese restaurant isn’t complete without ordering a bowl of spicy boiled fish. It looks intimidating. Chunks of white fish fillets are submerged in a fiery red broth and covered with a handful of dried red chili peppers and peppercorns. But it’s more flavor than fire, I promise. And if the spice does, in fact, hit you where it hurts, there’s always the white rice to temper the heat.