First Look at E Tao

Categories: Restaurant News

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Star of the show: sticky rice-and-pork-stuffed chicken wings.
"You should try the stuffed chicken wings," said our young waitress at E Tao as my friend Dr. Ricky and I considered which items to order from the restaurant's broad menu for dinner on Sunday night.

"All the Chinese people" -- she indicated to the table next to us -- "or, um, Asians...whatever you call them, order those. They're really popular." Ricky, who's Filipino -- or, um, Asian -- stifled a grunt of annoyance as he asked what was in the wings.

"Rice," our waitress responded. "And pork, I think." She wasn't selling us on the wings, but we decided to order them anyway, since all the cool Chinese kids are doing it apparently. Our waitress may have had a tenuous grasp of ethnicity, but she was bang-on when it came to the wings: They were the high point of an already tasty meal at this new Chinese restaurant on the upper level of Galleria IV.

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The back page of the menu, with dishes listed in Chinese, is your best bet here.
I was initially intrigued by E Tao when I saw two of my most trustworthy palates Tweeting about its a few weeks ago: local news anchor Miya Shay and fellow food blogger Misha Govshteyn, better known as Tastybitz. Said Shay: "Giving E Tao a try inside the @HoustonGalleria w/ fellow Chinese folks. XLB is awesome!"

Those XLB are xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, which are somewhat difficult to find in Houston outside of Chinatown mainstays like FuFu. Or, rather, good XLB are difficult to find here. Reading Alison Cook's post on E Tao's soup dumplings sealed the deal; I needed to try E Tao, as quickly as possible.

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Of course a Texan is going to choose the brisket off the menu.
The restaurant is a bit of an anomaly here in the Galleria, which isn't lacking for restaurants, but is lacking for good, reasonably priced restaurants. For this reason alone, E Tao will undoubtedly be packed for the duration of its stay here next to Nordstrom. And although the prices are higher than what you'd find in Chinatown, you're not in Chinatown, are you? You're in a place where the rent is significantly higher as well, and at least here you can go ice skating afterward as a bonus.

Ricky and I ordered three more things off the menu that night: pork dumplings in an intriguing "Sichuan peanut" sauce, beef "brisket" in a "Chinese brown sauce" and a plate of Sichuan-style eggplant. There is no burn here to the food, as you would expect with Sichuan cuisine, and that was a bit of a disappointment. But I don't know yet if it's because I'm white or because the kitchen simply doesn't do spice.

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Festive!
Lack of heat notwithstanding, the eggplant was wonderful, simply cut into huge, rough hunks and topped with a glutinous sauce that Ricky discerned had been thickened with arrowroot. It almost tasted like a richer, thicker version of a sweet and sour sauce, dotted with an assortment of peas, corn and carrots.

The "brisket," too, was excellent, tough and chewy pieces that tasted more like tripe -- not that I was complaining -- with lovely, thick and crunchy leaves of braised lettuce serving as a textural counterpoint.

But it was those wings that had Ricky and I both raving: crispy, buttery skin and moist chicken wrapped around savory, sticky rice and sweet bites of Chinese sausage. It wasn't until the chicken was all gone and we were completely full, in fact, that we realized we hadn't ordered the XLB for which we'd come.

We weren't terribly concerned, though. As Ricky pointed out, you can get great soup dumplings at FuFu any time, but we'd never encountered stuffed chicken wings like this before. Besides, it gave us a reason to return to E Tao. I'm already eagerly planning my next visit.



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6 comments
KiefnerC
KiefnerC

Frozen peas and corn on eggplant?Sorry, I think you might have lost your mind.(But then again, they made an appearance at that Brazilian pizza place Friends, much to the delight of many).Maybe the boomers are alone in suspecting this trend?

Joey
Joey

Dude, after reading this I made plans to go there. Went there today, and. Ive got to say, the stuff there is pretty damn good (especially the soft shell crab fried rice NOMNOMNOM:])

Corey
Corey

Damn that actually looks really good.. I avoid the galleria like the plague, but being just down the street I may swing by for lunch..

Christine Ha
Christine Ha

To the waitress: not all Asians in restaurants are Chinese, not all Asians with cameras around their necks are Japanese.  And yes, we do speak English well.

Jalapeno
Jalapeno

It appears this is the year of the stuffed chicken wing.  Seems like a lot of work to stuff a wing, but I'm happy to help eat them.

Mag
Mag

That looks so good!

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