If you follow this blog, you know I’m a big fan of the First Chinese BBQ chain in DFW. I’ve been to three different locations on countless occasions. This isn’t as much of a review as an overview of the restaurant chain for those who are unfamiliar and reasons for my zealousness.
So here’s the thing, if you live close to the DFW area, and have never had authentic Cantonese cuisine/Chinese BBQ, and you’re not a vegetarian, you really owe yourself a trip to First Chinese BBQ. Too far away, you say? They have four locations to serve your needs:
1) Arlington (Arkansas Ln just west of Cooper)
2) Carrollton (northeast corner of Belt Line & Josey)
3) Plano (northeast corner of Parker & Coit)
4) Richardson (Greenville Ave just south of Main/Belt Line)
Does anyone know of more locations elsewhere? Let me know.
When someone asks about good Chinese food in Dallas, I think any foodie’s default answer is to visit one of these locations. Granted, other great Cantonese restaurants exist (New San Dor) and there are certainly good options for other styles of Chinese cuisine in DFW, but First Chinese BBQ wins the convenience contest with multiple locations and trilingual menu (in Chinese, English, & Vietnamese). It is authentic Chinese within reach. It has that hole-in-the-wall factor without the language barrier of an all Chinese menu. The service staff generally speaks fluent English and chances are, you won’t be the only non-Asian there (although most of the patrons will be Asian, which is always an indicator of a restaurant’s authenticity). The restaurant chain has a loyal following of regular patrons. Even Dragonfly’s Chef Marc Cassel confesses that the roast duck and marinated chicken are the reasons why he keeps coming back to First Chinese.
Have I talked you into an adventure? Enter any First Chinese BBQ location and you’ll be greeted by a display case of hanging roasted ducks and chickens, bins of BBQ pork and roast pork, and sometimes, Babe hanging from the meat hooks (post roasting, of course). This is why I only recommend First Chinese to meat eaters. Their vegetarian dishes are passable, but the BBQ features are definitely why people visit. For meat eaters, this is do or die time. You’re either going to be excited and fascinated by the deli/rotisserie case or you’re going to be disgusted and disturbed. For the former group, let’s continue the adventure.
First Chinese does not have an alcohol license and will allow you to BYOB. If you bring wine, bring your own corkscrew since First Chinese isn’t properly equipped. The upside is that there is no corking fee. The downside is that you’ll be drinking wine out of Chinese tea cups unless you bring your own glasses.
The BBQ features come in either rice bowl combos for individual diners or as appetizers for family style meals. You can get just one item or a combination of different types. My favorite BBQ features here are the BBQ pork and the roast duck. Thus, I always the get pork/duck combo dish.
The BBQ pork, tender and juicy on the inside with its sweet glazed coating, comes with extra dipping sauce for those who love that char siu flavor. The duck is another favorite. Crispy skin with moist meat, a little on the fatty side, but that’s what gives it such great moist flavor. This dish is why I come to First Chinese BBQ. It’s always on the table when I visit along with that bottle of Pinot Noir.
Every item I’ve had off of the First Chinese menu has been at least satisfactory, but here are a few that really stand out and I would recommend without hesitation:
1) Beef Flat Noodle (or Beef Chow Fun): definitely the best version of any restaurant in DFW (actually the best I’ve had anywhere). Beef is so tender that it practically falls apart with the touch of your chopsticks.
2) BBQ Pork Fried Rice: my default dish when I’m doing takeout from First Chinese. Enough to feed two with a generous portion of BBQ pork.
3) Fried Cod with Black Bean Sauce: a very thin, crispy batter coats the cod steaks which are topped with a thick black bean sauce.
4) Chinese Broccoli: you’ll need some greens after all these meat-heavy recommendations.
5) Bok Choy and Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce: another great veggie option. The mild garlic flavor is a good contrast from the sweet, sauce heavy meat dishes.
6) Shrimp Stuffed Tofu: reminds me of dim sum, which is always a good thing.
The hot pots are also popular here. I’ve been meaning to try them but it’s just so hard to veer away from the things I already know I love.
The only downside to First Chinese BBQ? They only take cash. But a trip to the ATM is a small sacrifice for great food at affordable prices.
Give it a try, I promise you won’t regret it. You’ll start seeing the word “BBQ” in a different light.
Rating: 4 /5