Hudson's On The Bend Update PLEASE
We are invited to a celebratory dinner at Hudson's On The Bend. This is a place my spouse has avoided for several years based on, in his opinion,"high wine prices and mediocre food" but I have never been there. I have read all the posts but do not have a good feel for what to expect in terms of pricing, okay, expensive is what I have read, but that is a relative term and I have not been able to locate a menu on-line, or any idea what the stand-outs on the menu are these days. I'd love to attend, celebrate and prove his opinion outdateded...We enjoy good wines at reasonable prices, dine regularly at Mirabelle, Eastside Cafe, etc. and are open to any menu items (although we live in the country and usually enjoy our own venison and bison prepared at home). Thanks for your advice!
Thanks to all Austin chow hounds who responded! Yes, we did attend. There were 5 couples in our party and the tab came to right at $1000.00 inculding the 20% tip for parties over 8. The amuse bouche was a nice touch, as mentioned in a previous post. I was disappointed in my salad as it was somewhat pedestrian, but enjoyed the fish which was cooked to perfection and nicely presented. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals but there were some problems with pacing and some mix ups in service. Overall, I'd have to say that, for the money, I think there are better options available in Austin. Thanks again for your input!
Hudson's meal last night (Sunday) and was eagerly anticipating as haven't been in several years. Arrived a bit past 7:15 and a few tables eating outside on the patio and the restaurant appeared about 40-50% full (which remained so all night). I had requested a table if possible in the heart of the action, and not to be tucked deep into a private room, and it turns out we were seated at a table in the back of the first room to the left, where half our table was forced to stare at the wall. Disappointing that my request wasn't fulfilled, especially when it should have been a no brainer to do so with half the restaurant available on a sleepy sunday night.
But, no worries as unless I'm totally placed in Siberia I typically roll with it as I know the restaurant is spacing for wait staff and a larger group has much more limited options vs a table of 4 or 2.
I will say, the walk up the path is as pleasant as any prelude in town. The gardens are lovely and the setting seems miles away not yards away from the street.
Pleasant and helpful waitperson who offered good suggestions and kept a nice pace throughout the meal. Good amuse to start and very tasty roasted tomato w/Pure Luck goat cheese 1st course. I imagine this dish a solid 8 could be a 10 in July when tomato's are at peak season. Others in our family had the crab cake and enjoyed it as did I, though not necessarily a must order dish.
We next passed around an off menu special - lobster bisque which was outstanding. Great depth of flavor, a few small chunks of lobster and a not so subtle kick with chipotle or some other pepper in the background. This was a fantastic dish and perfect with passing so not to be too overwhelming of a portion for any one person.
Mom had the escargot w/shitake mushrooms and the seared foie gras as her main course. She proclaimed both dished as terrific. She adored the foie gras presentation on a plate shaped like an artist's palete with dots of the mango and tamarind sauces down each side. My editorial, but I honestly found the presentation circa 1995 in nature.
On to the main courses. Between our family we sampled and shared the red & white tuna, pecan smoked duck, elk backstrap, ribeye, and the guajillo crusted sunfish. All the dishes come out of the kitchen with their accompanying sauces poured tableside by the waiter. All main courses are very large portions - far larger than I'm accustomed to seeing in finer restaurants these days. Several dishes had the same sides or vegetable medly type accompaniment which tasted fine but not inspiring or particularly eager for more than a perfunctory bite. Again, my thought was the whole plate presentation and sheer quantity of food reminded me of Castle Hill Cafe. Very large portions and pretty plates but the theatrics of the saucing and tucking the rosemary stalk in as a flag just don't do it for me anymore.
I enjoyed the tuna the best with the sunfish a close 2nd. Tuna was served on a smoking cedar plank and served extremely rare which our family loves. It was great quality tuna and delicious. The coconut rice cake I give super high marks for originality and I'm sure some people absolutely love it, but we found the sweetness just didn't work and overwhelmed the tuna. The sunfish was light and sweet and the lime beurre blanc sauce worked great with this fish. All three meat dishes were totally way above average in taste and nicely cooked and presented. My bias, however, is such that I subscribe to the "after about the 8th bite your taste buds are wacked out" and need a change.
In summary, our entree's were in the $32-38 price range with first courses of about $13-18. We had a perfectly delightful meal. Would I rush back - no. I might be more inclined to pop in this summer for a glass of wine and an appetizer on the patio rather than a full meal. My taste runs much closer to Wink, Uchi, Vespaio, etc as far as innovation in the kitchen and style of enjoying a multi course meal. I applaud Hudson's and Jeff Blank for creating a wonderful restaurant and respect greatly the work involved in maintaining success for 22+ yrs.
When the Elk backstrap (espresso and cascabel rub if my memory serves) smoked then grilled is on, it's difficult to find meat that more delicately melts in one's mouth, a touch of crab above, and shiner bock mashed pots below, it can be an amazing dish. I've found no 'gamey' overtones in that dish after 4 tries. Perhaps though, like many intense stimuli tend to be, the first may have been **perceived at least ** the best.
I like Hudson's, too, but I don't love all their food. Many items are appealing merely because of the novelty factor (rattlesnake cakes), as singlemalt pointed out above. On my next visit, I plan to stick to dishes that rely on quality ingredients—like the seared fois gras, maybe the smoked prime ribeye—and avoid the more ambitious offerings.
I should mention that I tried the "hot and crunchy" ruby trout on the recommendation of a co-worker and didn't like it at all. To see my full review, check out this recent thread:
Hi Saige - don't know if you've already gone, but my wife and I ate there with another couple last night to celebrate my wife's birthday, so thought I'd provide some first hand recommendations. I found it to be a very good restaurant - although I'm not sure I agree with the Statesman's #1 ranking.
First of all - yes, the place is expensive. Very expensive. Does the food measure up? For the most part, I would say yes.
We first received a complimentary amuse bouche (surprise), an apple & goat cheese tart with a chipotle cream sauce. Personally, I wasn't "wow'ed" by it, but everyone else liked it quite a bit, so I'll put it down as a winner. Couldn't fault the execution, though, it was flaky, creamy and perfectly made.
For the salads, both couples split the heirloom tomato salad. This is a dish that relies heavily on the availability of quality tomatoes, and given that it is January, maybe that wasn't the best choice. Regardless, it was very good, the goat cheese, bacon and greens were all very tasty. I think if I ordered this in May it would have been outstanding.
On the the entrees. My wife ordered the Herb Horseradish Halibut at the recommendation of the waiter. It was easily one of the best fish dishes I've ever had in Austin - very well prepared, flavorful, not dry, and the accompanying sides were excellent - my wife especially liked the dill gnocchi. My wife is a small 5'1" and never finishes a meal. This time, she was wishing there was more. So were the rest of us (we always try each other's food).
The other dishes ordered were the Crunchy Ruby Trout, Grilled King Salmon and Elk Back Strap. The trout was another clear winner, breaded and pan-fried so it was crispy, again was cooked perfectly - not dried out in the least, very flavorful, and the aioli was fantastic. This was a large dish, it had two sizable pieces of fish. I really liked my elk back strap, but I would only order it if you are a fan a game dishes or simply want to try something completely un-ordinary. The flavor is very different and distinct. It wasn't a hit with my dining companions, however it came with Shiner Bock mashed potatoes that so good I had to fend off the others (especially my wife) who kept trying to get more
The only dish that was disappointing was the salmon. It was a little too charred on the outside, and while not bad, overall the flavor didn't measure up to the others.
For dessert, the four of us split the creme brulee trio (vanilla, chocolate & blood orange), again at the recommendation of the waiter and again absolutely excellent. We ended up taking bites of the orange and chocolate brulees together for a luscious chocolate-orange dessert.
I found their wine list to be about the same as most other nice restaurants in town. There were plenty of choices that aren't "stupid-expensive".
So, hopefully that helps. Yeah, it's expensive, and yeah, after this and Trulucks last weekend it's PB&J for the rest of January. But, was it good, even great? Absolutely.
IMO Hudson's has become a high end, very high end novelty restuarant in the same vein as the old Magic Time Machine but using food instead of novelty decor and waitstaff. We used to eat there about twice a year and did so for a bunch of years. The menu prices rival NYC, the food portions are huge. The last and the last, time we ate there my wife and d in law got the prime rib. It was a monstrous piece of meat, so large that the waitstaff laughed and commented on its size. This is a waste and increases the prices somewhat. We have quite going there. Rather take the money and go to Aquarelle or Uchi.
re: River Rat
Thanks, River Rat.
I had searched their web site before posting my query. On following your advice I found the menu and wine list. This was certainly not intuitive though, as the pots and pans labels only appear if you scroll over them. I very much appreciate your quick response!
I agree. Not a well-designed site if people who are interested go there and can't easily find the menu. It's been a few years since I was there and I didn't remember the prices, but after looking at the menu the prices appear to me to be out of line. Least expensive entree is $32?