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Sep 12, 2006 11:40 PM

Fino opinions? (AUS)

Anyone have a good review of Fino in Austin? My friends have all raved, but there are some pretty unfavorable reviews on Citysearch.

If Fino isn't your choice, where would you recommend an anniversary dinner? (Keep in mind, this is take two on our anniversary dinner celebration since the first try was terrible in San Antonio.)

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  1. I was there a couple of weeks ago and thought it was pretty good. I especially liked the mussel appetizer and the paella, which came with great calimari, shrimp, and mussels, and so-so clams.

    1. OK, I have not been but I've read all the reviews and have been to their sister restaurant Asti. The consensus seems to be that it is pretty good but not spectacular. The happy hour deal on the small plates looks like a good deal.

      But if you're going for your anniversary why go to a middle of the road restaurant, right? The best places in the city in my opinion are the Driskill Grill, Uchi and Hudson's on the Bend. If you only want to spend as much as you would at Fino then I would recommend Vespaio, Castle Hill and Mirabelle.

      But perhaps the best pick will be Siena as it is very romantic. Of the places I've named so far really only Siena, Driskill and maybe Hudson's can be considered cozy and romantic. Vespaio and Uchi are very busy and crowded.

      1. Thanks for the great tips! The dinner was last night and we ended up at La Traviatta based on a friend's recommendation. WOW! We were so impressed. It was seriously delicious and the service was impeccable. We haven't heard much about that place, so we were surprised at how fabulous it was. I think I'll post a detailed rave about it in a separate post so others will go.

        1. New to this board, and even though this is an old post, I wanted to comment for anyone who finds this in a search:

          We went to Fino for paella (only place we knew of in town that served it) and it was the worst I ever had. It was all tomato, no saffron: the dish was orange/red. The rice was both mushy and hard in the middle, and it had no flavor from the seafood (as if they do not use fish fumet). I can make a simple paella at home that is light years above what we were served.

          However, the management was very gracious and courteous in responding to our complaint, removing it from the meal and offering an explanation about how they have to cater to unexperienced palates that do not know what paella is supposed to be like (whatever).

          Our starter (lobster and potato salad) was excellent, though, but I found the flatbread and serrano ham dish wildly overrated: serrano ham and manchego are always delicious, but putting it on a piece of flat bread and heating it doesn't earn any points for me because the ham gets a little bit tough and greasy.

          Nonetheless, the space is terrific and I would go back, with a more skeptical, selective eye to the menu.

          3 Replies
          1. re: renz

            Thanks for the detailed report, renz.

            I, too, like the people that run Asti and Fino, and I like the look and vibe of their restaurants. But I don't like the chow, especially at Asti. Here's a link to my first post about the food there:


            If you find anything good at Fino (or elsewhere in town, of course), please let us know. And welcome to chowhound!


            1. re: renz

              I had a similar experience with the paella at Fino. I could not detect any saffron, and I do not believe they use a seafood broth to prepare the dish. Like renz, I can make a better version at home, and it's really not that difficult. If you get invited there for get-togethers with friends as I do, I'd recommend sticking to the small plates. I've had good luck with the fried goat cheese which is served with caramelized onions and honey; the salads; and the fried spinach balls. It's a nice space, so it's too bad much of the food isn't delicious.

              1. re: diva360

                Interesting that you say that, cos it seems to be the consensus. I took a friend there recently who said to me on the way out "You know your rule about art?" --referring to some comment that the art that moves me most is the one I couldn't have done myself or that which leaves me wishing I'd have thought of, because it's so, so far ahead or daring or intricate in its simplicity (or some such hokum of mine)--
                "That's how this meal was, but the inverse. I could have done better myself ... and that's why you go out partly...maybe it had something to do with it being late lunchtime", Now the bone everyone seems to have to pick with the place, he says "it would have been forgivable if it had been about a third of the price. they had pretensions they couldn't live up to". All this before we got to the car ('magine that).

                We didn't have the paella as warned, we had tapas, wine, cocktails and dessert.

                I feel compelled to say that it's pompous and shameful-- however, characteristically turgid and unsurprising, as by concordance-- of that manager, to have the audacity to blame the undiscerning local palates for FINO missing the mark on an ubiquitous peasant dish like paella. Doesn't that make you embarrassed for them to some degree? I mean isn't that like saying they been "Thomas kincaid-ing" a Miro? or "Nora Roberts-ing" a Nora Barnacle? And isn't the act and admission of dumbing down a classic and cheapening it for the pleves, condescending and therfore insencere and unrespectable... Maybe it was an interpretation of the dish... but again...they should tell you so if that's the case, so it isn't. Besides, appreciation for creative product can honed, yes, but a large part of it is also intrinsic. Ferran Adria will change the life of ANYONE he prepares for and leave 'em feeling honored, regardless of an individual's class, life experience or worldliness or level of intrest in any of it.

                Also, Austin attracts tourists from all over the world, who leave enthusiastic to return because this is a world class city, not some isolated podunk. It is synceriely explorative palates that move the locals to try new cingular places promising vision, passion and innovation like FINO...(and not deliver). This is some of FINO's marquet. Why don't they try to please it?

                I, for one, prefer a more right-side of the brain, anti-materialistic, foodie approach: if it is local, fresh, organic, quality, assembled with vision or to make a statement inevitably registers and l blows you away. Right? The way a pair of Christian Louboutin's would pull your strings, if you've been walking around in very, very comfortable SAS your whole life. Or the way viewers move around slacked-jawed at AMOA or the National Gallery if the only art they own is a Klimt print in the bathroom. You already know what impressive and excellence is and when exposed to it you can't deny it and should just let yourself trust it. Same goes for mediocrity and garbage.

                The flavors in the plates we got were badly matched or left something missing, the egg in our quiche was left runny. Not at all impressive. The service was subpar too.

                I shared what my friend said because it was in agreement with this thread and this friend happened to be visiting from Europe and IS well traveled and HAS an educated palate, as I'm sure a great many of FINO's dissapointed patrons do. The radar of someone enjoying a night out at the golden corral or the IHOP, probably doesn't pick-up a FINO as a destination. Plus I've already posted my own take elsewhere, something about "smoke and mirrors" and "undeserved pedantry: careful not to drink the cool-aid".
                If anything, FINO sending guests feeling dissatisfied, put-off by the staff and sticker-shocked is what makes this otherwise, respectable, open-minded and cultured city seem unsophisticated and too big for its britches.

                I felt sad and wished I could have taken my guest to any, of many other local places that have fared pleasantly with visitors and for celebratory outings.
                For tapas better hit Malaga or segovia. For quality dishes and service get to Vespaio Enoteca. For food that flirts with your eyes and enchants your taste-buds mosie to Manuel's... Or the Claypit or Tai Passion. Not to forget, UCHI, Estancia Churascarria.For under-rated meza goodness there's Marakesh Cafe.Opt for any of these and many others in town before you opt for the supercilious and vacous bully of a place that is FINO.

            2. I've been to Fino a few times (although not in the last 6 months), and overall quite like it. I'll agree the paella is not the best I've ever had, but most of the other dishes were very good. You have to watch ordering small plates/big plates, because the price can add up pretty quickly. I definitely like the atmosphere; it's especially nice when the weather is pleasant (unlike now) and you can sit on that second floor patio area. Don't know if this is of any interest, but the latest version of Bon Appetit has a dessert from Fino on the cover (even if you don't like the place, kind of nice to see a local place getting some national recognition).