Out of (Tru)lucks
Hey everyone - I'm another newcomer to the Chowhound world, and I've been enjoying reading other's thought/opinions on the Austin dining scene. My background - grew up just outside New Orleans (go Saints!), lived in Austin since 1991, like to cook, like to eat, like to drink wine (in moderation of course).
So, my latest dining experience this weekend was at Truluck's Arboretum. I have to say I was very disappointed - it was an all around poor experience. They focus on crab, which no one in our party ordered, so my perception is based entirely on their other standard menu items.
First, even though we had a 6:15 dinner reservation, and were seated promptly, it was almost 20 minutes later before we even ordered our drinks. They were surprisingly busy for that early in the evening, so maybe they weren't completely staffed up yet. I ordered the Caesar salad, and my three dining companions ordered their Sonoma green salad. The Caesar was decent, had real anchovies, the greens were fresh, although a bit too much dressing. The Sonoma salads, on the other hand, were covered in a too sweet honey vinaigrette dressing. It was so sweet and there was so much of it that was all you could taste (whoever was pouring the dressings evidently had a heavy hand that night). One bright note, the complementary cinnamon raisin bread they brought to the table was quite good.
On to the entrees, and here is where everything fell apart. My friend and I both ordered the Avery Island King Prawns, billed as being stuffed with crab and covered with "Gumbo du Monde". My wife ordered the Fiery Texas Gulf Snapper, covered in a "spicy Thai chili sauce", and my friend's wife ordered Grilled Day Boat Scallops. The prawns were not stuffed with crab, they were stuffed with crab stuffing (there's a difference), and the "Gumbo du Monde" turned out to be nothing more than a roux gravy (trust me when I tell you I know what gumbo is supposed to be - this wasn't it). None of it was at all flavorful, and the crab stuffing inside the prawns was cold. My wife's "fiery" snapper was anything but - the spicy Thai chili sauce was instead very sweet (in fact - it tasted just like the honey vinaigrette they put on the salads), and again, all you could taste was this sweet sauce. The scallops weren't terrible, but the main flavor here was garlic. I like garlic, but I don't want to taste almost nothing but garlic. Frankly, the food preparation was poor - and in the case of the prawns and snapper, was not how it was described on the menu.
Our friends don't get out often (they have small children), and so we were hoping this would be a great meal (they like seafood). Unfortunately, this was not the case - out of the eight items ordered (there was no way were ordering dessert by the end of the meal), two of them were passable, and six failed miserably - the best part of the meal being the complementary bread. Truluck's is not cheap ($120 for my wife and I - including one bottle of wine), and for that kind of money, I expect something far superior to what we got. My recommendation - pass on Truluck's.
We used to go to the downtown location for the Power Lunch. $15 for salad, entree, and dessert. It was a great deal, and the service was always good because they weren't too busy. They started doing that because they weren't getting a lot of lunch business. They took it off of the menu about a year ago, something to do with management revamping the menu. The times we've been for dinner have been hit or miss. The crab claws are always good, but as Tom said, it is their only "sure thing." Though the hot and crunchy trout is always very good. They also have a good fish supplier, so their basic fish fillets and steaks are normally a safe bet. The tuna is one of my favorites.
Ken, you and I have had similar experiences. Truluck's is a miserable place; your situation would have only been worsened by trekking to the downtown franchise.
As far as I can tell, the only things they do well are steak and crab claws. I've enjoyed both there. Every other item I have ordered has been at best mediocre.
I've had a couple quiet dinners there, on an early weeknight, maybe around 5:30 PM. On those evenings, I've gotten decent service. On any other visit, the service has spanned the spectrum of lazy-but-acceptable (like yours), all the way to so absurdly bad that I thought I must be on Candid Camera. I'm not a service nazi, but charging ~$120 for two implies a certain social contract of (at least) semi-attentive, semi-polite engagement of the restaurant staff.
I'm only going back if coerced through violence,
Great post! I like the way you re-created your dining experience, with its one up and mostly downs.
I'm not a huge fan of any of the other similarly upscale seafood-focused places in town (like Eddie V's). For a different kind of chow experience, you might want to try some places like Gene's New Orleans Style Poboys and Deli. I like their take on Southern-comfort classics like greasy fried chicken and smothered pork chops, but other 'hounds have enjoyed their fried catfish. Here are links to a few threads where Gene’s food has been discussed:
By the way, I can now second scrumptiouschef's recommendation of Nubian Queen Lola's. I loved the fried catfish when I visited.
I look forward to reading more of your posts, Ken W.