Kim Wah delivers stellar authentic dishes ... mostly

Special chicken, bubble tea, and other dishes from Kim Wah. - Steven Gilmore
Steven Gilmore
Special chicken, bubble tea, and other dishes from Kim Wah.

A Chinese barbeque joint doesn't need ducks hanging in the window for you to know it's good, but it certainly helps. Hanging the duck helps slowly stretch and dry the skin, ensuring that when you cook it, the skin will sizzle and crisp, turning salty and crunchy. Kim Wah must have rows of ducks hanging in their kitchen, because every duck dish here features superb skin.

The Peking duck special (the most expensive thing on the menu at $26.95) supposedly serves 2-3 people. That should be 2-3 Texans, as the platter of duck is enormous. Sticky steamed buns ring a mound of succulent duck. Hoisin sauce drizzled inside gives the dish a salty kick. With this item, you have the option of having the duck bones stir-fried with onions or boiled into a soup. Without having tried the soup, I can confidently say it must be the better option — the stir-fried bones have little meat on them, and the onions aren't hearty enough to make it a full dish.

Kim Wah's "authentic Chinese menu" is twice as long as the regular one, and infinitely more interesting. However, it features poorly-lit photos and few words so diners must fly a bit on interpretation and intuition. The special chicken looks like nachos, but is actually bone-in chicken topped with diced carrots and onions. Not sure what's special about it, except that the meat was juicy while the skin was crispy, a much sought-after combo. Those with a salty tongue will be intrigued by the salted pork chop. Usually when you see a pork chop on the menu it is delivered in chop form. But at Kim Wah, it arrives already cut up and fried. The salt content is high and the batter is more like crackling, making it a bit like the best pork rind you could ever eat. If you're looking for something to balance the salt, the pork chop is served with slices of raw jalapenos. The chop is already hot enough, but try a few peppers if you dare.

One of the tell-tale signs of an authentic Chinese barbeque restaurant is the presence of good vegetables. My duck featured huge mushroom caps and crunchy bok choy, both pairing well with the tender bird. Beware of bones though — many dishes come either on the bone or with surprise bones buried in the meat: a significant speed bump for faster eaters.

Takeout lovers will enjoy the moo shu and pan-fried noodle dishes. The moo shu pork comes with four pancakes big enough to share, and the pork is slightly greasy with well-sauced onions — exactly how you want your moo shu filler to be. The pan-fried noodles with shredded pork and bok choy sat on a pool of ubiquitous brown sauce, which slowly softened the noodles, making each bite a mix of soft and crunchy. The fried dumplings are decent with crispy brown spots, but the sauce here is weak and watery.

The most banal and simple of dishes fell flat. The duck fried rice arrived with very little duck and the rice was white. Fried rice should bear some mark of having been pan-fried — yellow or brown rice, or even a crust — but this plate had neither, and was markedly low on seasoning. The side of fried rice was a deep brown, but dry and flavorless.

But remember the duck; return to it. There are gems here worth searching out, even at the price of dry, dull rice.

Kim Wah Chinese BBQ

7080 Bandera Rd
(210) 520-2200
Best Bets The chicken special, salted pork chop, and Peking duck will fill you up and never let you down.
Hours Mon-Fri 11am-2pm, 5-9:30pm; Saturday 11am-9:30pm
Prices $-$$

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