The Best Chinese Restaurant in San Antonio: Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar
Every now and then, you run across a restaurant that is so incredibly nondescript you would never even notice it, let alone give it a try, were it not for the raving recommendations of others. Thankfully, I know some kind people who weren’t going to let me skip out on such a restaurant and suggested I make a visit. And I am so glad they did. The verdict: Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar, while not a whole lot to look at, may just be the best Chinese restaurant in San Antonio, and is definitely one of its best-kept secrets.
Dashi is the second culinary venture by Kristina Zhao, owner of the popular (and often purported “best Chinese restaurant in San Antonio”) Sichuan House on the city’s far west side. When Zhao decided to expand by opening a trendier version of the Sichuan House, she tapped her former chef, Jian Li, and together they renovated an unremarkable space in northeast SA and opened Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar in September 2021. Nearly two years in and Dashi has more than found its stride in the Chinese food scene of San Antonio – in fact, it is blazing a new trail with its spectacular food placed exactly where it should be, front and center.
Dashi Sichuan Kitchen + Bar
Very rarely do I get to say, “parking isn’t a problem,” but for Dashi, parking actually isn’t a problem. There are plenty of places to park in the lot near the restaurant and many more found just across the street in the spacious lot of the adjacent businesses.
The restaurant is housed at the end of a strip mall near the intersection of Jones Maltsberger and Thousand Oaks Dr. While the white, clapboard exterior isn’t anything special to behold, the outdoor covered patio with hanging rattan chairs is super modern and a great place to enjoy a cocktail during happy hour, though the views aren’t anything special unless you happen to enjoy gazing out over a busy city street to the Dollar Tree store that lies across the thoroughfare (and if you do, to each his own!).
The interior of the restaurant has an east-meets-the-club kind of feel with swanky velvet seating, colorful Chinese lanterns, dramatic chandeliers, and contemporary epoxy flooring. The indoor bar, while on the smallish side, offers a great selection of liquors served to guests who can take a seat on the stylish brass barstools.
But for real, if there is one reason to visit Dashi, it isn’t the design, it is far and away the food. Chef Li’s knowledge and execution of Sichuan-style cooking, which leans heavily on pickling, salting, drying, spicing, and chili oil, is second to none. The menu is unusually large and includes traditional stir-fries and noodle and rice bowls, as well as some Sichuan-specific entrees like wok-seared Mongolian ribeye and spicy cumin and lamb lollipops (yes, lollipops).
Flavors here are robust and full-bodied, making every bite into each dish a total delight as you taste the salty/savory/acidic blend that so captures Sichuan-style food. And since entrees (which include chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, and tofu dishes) are all served family style, Dashi is best enjoyed with a group where you can order a number of different dishes and share it all.
On a smaller budget or in a smaller group? Come at lunch and order from their $14.99 “Wok Wonders” menu which includes a sizeable entrée, a bowl of hot and sour soup (the BEST I’ve ever had), house pickles with smashed cucumbers (where have you been all my life?), and jasmine rice. Everything was so delicious, and thankfully, there was enough to take home and enjoy for lunch the following day.
The Best Chinese Restaurant in San Antonio
In a city that majors in BBQ, tacos, and Tex-Mex, there has long been a noticeable lack of quality Asian cuisine in San Antonio. And while we still have a long way to go in this market, with Dashi, some great leaps forward have been made. Zhao and Li have completely outdone themselves, and literally in this case. With the original Sichuan House restaurant as their only real competition for the best Chinese restaurant in San Antonio, either way, they have handily won.
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