More than a wayside lodging

When out-of-town visitors elect not to share the lack of air-conditioning afforded by our domestic establishment, they often make the Clarion Inn their Austin home base, particularly if they appreciate the cuisine of the Marco Polo seafood restaurant, where lobster is offered prepared in several ways. The Clarion, which was once the Quality Inn, beat everyone else to the domain name. Those stopping by the Clarion on weekend evenings may see very large wedding parties, distinguished by elaborate towering cakes, person-high arrangements of flowers, and complete banquets catered by Marco Polo. During the weekend hours when the dim sum menu is available, there’s sometimes quite a wait to get in. On Saturday and Sunday evenings, Marco Polo is frequented by groups of Asian students dining at leisure and sharing pot after pot of tea. Marco Polo serves delicious jasmine rice. The vegetable soup is always different, but always tasty, and generous enough to serve at least two; only the vegetables vary. In an inconspicuous nook just away from the courtyard swimming pool is a cage taller than a person, home to constantly active black-and-white finches. The cage is covered on top with bamboo blinds. On each of the four sides is another bamboo blind. Suspended above the cage and stretched from wall to wall to provide an additional shield against the heat of the sun are two hammocks of doubled-over greenhouse shadecloth. If the onlooker at the birdcage feels under observation, he should glance up. The chances are excellent that he will see two cats, lounging, stretching, scampering, or even dozing with eyes half open in the leaves caught by the shade-cloth hammocks. One cat is black; the other, a gray tabby with emphatic stripes. Each sports a collar. Although (at least when it’s not raining) they live aloft, they dine terrestrially and then return to life on high. On Sundays a church congregation in formation conducts services upstairs at the old Attic Club. And this is the last Clarion mystery to be revealed today: the Marco Polo menu item listed in English with no further explanation as “Taiwanese stir fry” contains an astonishing quantity of dried anchovies.

4 Comments so far

  1. ttrentham (unregistered) on November 1st, 2004 @ 2:52 pm

    Cool post. I live fairly close to that Clarion and Marco Polo Restaurant, passing by it every day on my way to work or wherever.

    I’ve heard good things about the Dim Sum. I guess I’ve never gone in because, frankly, the place looks like kind of a dump from the outside. I’m definitely going to have to check it out.

  2. wixlet (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2004 @ 12:43 am

    we used to go to marco polo quite often for dim sum. we stopped the second time they stopped serving dim sum (this was the second time over a period of 2-3 or more years that we were regulars).

    i think tien hong’s selection is better, but marco polo’s location is better for us.

  3. Rantor (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2004 @ 3:57 am

    The current owners have been there just a couple of years, I’m told. Not having tried the dim sum, I can attest only to the numbers waiting to be seated during the hours that it’s served. At times, Marco Polo is just as busy as Din Ho. I’m particularly appreciative of the pork in garlic sauce because it’s very generous with tree ears. Pao’s Mandarin downtown is still sorely missed.

  4. ttrentham (unregistered) on November 2nd, 2004 @ 8:46 am

    I agree about the loss of Pao’s. We loved that place and it was such a cool location.

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