Wink - big disappointment
I guess Wink really shines on the tasting menu, but last night we ate there and almost nothing went right. We were seated immediately for our 7PM reservation....our server brought us an amuse bouche, promised to discuss wines pairings and the menu, and promptly disappeared for twenty minutes. Well, I guess we were the ones who disappeared, because we saw her attending to other tables and walking in and out of the kitchen...but she didn't seem to see us.
I finally flagged down the hostess and asked if we could please have some bread and a glass of wine. Another person came with the wine, and asked if we had any questions about the menu. I asked how the quail breasts were prepared, and she said "grilled." I pushed - "grilled over an open flame?" She hemmed and hawed but ultimately said yes, of course, isn't that what "grill" means?
Our server showed up at the table, gave us the spiel on local sourcing, and without asking if we were ready, said "I'll leave you to toast with your wine" and left again for another 7 minutes. When she returned, I placed the order: share the scallop app, duck for him, quail for me. She offered to bring each plate separately so we could share each one - nice touch. She popped back one more time to tell us that the duck would have a crispy skin and would be cooked to medium rare. We thought that sounded just fine.
Food: amuse bouche of rosewater and strawberry pannacotta, topped with a drizzle of 20 year old balsamic. It was fine, couldn't discern any rose aroma or flavor, so this really seemed like dessert.
Scallops - this dish was a mess. The scallops were overcooked, and so heavily salted that instead of having a beautifully caramelized seared surface, they had a weird heavy, salty crust. They were placed on top of some sauteed greens (can't remember what) & baby leeks, all of which had been cooked with bacon. Salt, salt, salt. The lemon-infused olive oil should have been a light counterpoint to the heaviness, but we found only the most scant droplet.
Quail breasts - well, they were pan-roasted, not grilled, but this was still the best dish of the night. Served on top of a very nice walnut risotto with baby brussels sprouts (hard in the middle) with a good cranberry demiglace. The flavors worked well together, but the quail tasted as if it had been seasoned with the same over-salty rub as the scallops. Flipping the skin off saved this dish.
Duck - the micro-kale was wonderful, the trumpet mushrooms were earthy and nice. The zinfandel vinaigrette was sour but servicable, but the duck itself was atrocious. It too seemed to have been given the exact same salt treatment as the quail and scallops, making the skin, which was indeed very crisp, a lip-wrinkling, unpleasant experience. The meat was raw. I mean duck-sashimi raw.
We hadn't talked to our original server since we placed the order, but I flagged her down to talk about the duck. She got defensive, said "that's how they cook it here," and just started grabbing plates and saying they would re-cook it... we tried to decline, but she wasn't really listening to us....just insisting that that is how she would rectify the situation. I felt like I was in an argument where i couldn't get a word in edgewise...like I was being bullied! I finally said "NO. We don't want anything else." She said "I'll bring out some dessert."
We waited, and waited, and finally I flagged down the hostess again and said "You know, we really don't WANT anything else, just the check please."
The server came out with the check, a little creme brulee (fine, nothing special) and said "we took the duck off the bill since it wasn't to your specifications." MY specifications? I hadn't specified anything - I had agreed to have it cooked medium rare. I'm telling you people - the duck was raw. She was gritting her teeth and said "I hope you come back."
But I don't think we will.
Wow, that sounds awful. Oversalting is a big no-no, and your any waiter behavior like that is pretty much inexcusable at a fine dining establishment. I don't blame you for not wanting to go back.
In Wink's defense, with one *very* recent exception (with a female waiter, I wonder if it is the same one?), I've always had terrific service Wink. I think the two male waiters, in particular, are great -- they are competent, friendly, and knowledgeable about food and wine. I'm starting to worry about Wink - several people have posted about negative experiences. Are they going downhill? Coasting on their reputation? Personally, I hope this is a temporary blip, but it is disturbing.
Saticoy, I'm sorry you had a Wink bummer. A lot of money to spend on a bad experience.
My problem with Wink mirrors yours: it can be the best meal in Austin, but about one out of every five or six visits will be absurdly sub-standard. I can't really recommend the place to out-of-towners due to this.
It makes me wonder. Do they have a regular chef who sometimes isn't there? Is his replacement completely half-assed?
The staff, as well, is erratic. I know several regular servers there who are turbo awesome. They even remember my name when I visit. But from time to time, you get a lame server who is apathetic, bordering on rude.
However, all that being said, I've had some of the most delicious dishes in Austin at Wink. I will no longer order their steaks (too many disappointments, perhaps my standards are too high), but on a good day, many of their other dishes can be downright amazing.
I haven't been to Wink simply because of all the negative reviews I hear. It's a shame when a meal that costs an arm and a leg is terrible. Lucky for them it's not a "pay what you think it's worth" place.
catarata and tom in austin - I know from reading the board that this place can rock, but like hooliganyouth, I can't recommend or patronize a high-end restaurant that can go this wrong...the rare night out is just too precious to play russian roulette!
I'm so sorry to hear about your experience. We had a lot of luck with the tasting menu, but based on other reviews anything BUT the tasting menu can equal to a pretty bad experience. As others said, it's a lot of moola to spent on a place that is so inconsistent.