Chef James Dumapit’s fascination with Chinese food came to him in small steam baskets during weekly dim sum meals with his parents growing up. At his new restaurant, Old Thousand, he can finally make Chinese food of his own.
Dumapit has a rich background working in fine dining, most recently as the executive sous-chef at popular Japanese restaurant Uchi. His passion for cooking started back when he found himself living in his parents’ house while bouncing between colleges.
“I was living in my parents’ house for free, and my dad kind of put a stipulation on it that if I was going to do that, then I needed to start cooking,” Dumapit said. “Shortly after that, I got a job at this really cool gourmet food shop in my neighborhood, and that showed me that there could be avenues to make a living for yourself and still kind of express yourself through the culinary arts.”
At Old Thousand, Dumapit and co-chef David Baek offer their own take on Chinese food, which is neither traditional Chinese nor strictly American-Chinese. It’s a combination of their own personal tastes and interests that yields a distinct menu from any other Chinese restaurant in the area.
“I think it would be disingenuous of us to try to do authentic Chinese food,” Dumapit said. “There are plenty of restaurants in town that do authentic Chinese food really well, and I think that’s part of what inspired us vastly, and the last thing we wanted to do was to try to go to that realm. It wouldn’t be an honest representation of what we knew.”
Dumapit said the best thing for them to do at Old Thousand is to approach a popular dish such as General Tso’s chicken or something more specialized such as rice congee with the same level of awareness and respect.
A majority of the menu items are familiar options with an added distinctive twist. The crispy wonton appetizers seem like any other crispy wontons, but the house-made pineapple sweet chili sauce served with them adds a delicious spicy and tropical flavor that is far superior to the typical sweet and sour sauce usually served with wontons. One particularly interesting appetizer is the seasonal pickle dish. Currently, the pickles being served are chunks of cabbage covered in a sour sauce with a slight spicy kick to it. These will please any fan of pickled vegetables while also introducing something fresh to them.
A huge high point of the entrée menu is the brisket fried rice. This American take on a popular Chinese dish mixes fried rice with chunks of brisket, slices of Chinese sausage and green onion. These simple ingredients come together to make an unforgettable version of an already popular dish. The brisket adds a great savory and smoky flavor, while the Chinese sausage counters that with a surprisingly sweet taste. Both pair exceptionally well with the mild flavor of the green onion cooked throughout the rice.
A more unexpected highlight on the menu is the nai nai chicken and rice congee. This no-frills dish mixes porridge-like rice with dark meat chicken, a salted egg and shallots to a wildly successful result. The ingredients together yield a creamy and hearty flavor that can go head-to-head with any other comfort food served throughout Austin.
The food served at Old Thousand succeeds in fusing American and Chinese fare with enough attention to detail that prevents it from ever coming off as gimmicky. Between good food execution, a relaxing modern ambience and a helpful wait staff, Old Thousand has all the ingredients to becoming another well-renowned East 11th Street establishment.
- Location: 1000 E. 11th St., #150
- Hours: Sun. – Thurs. 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Fri. – Sat. 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
- Score: 4/5