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Wink Review (disappointed)

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We had supper last night at Wink in Austin. I’ll start with the positives: it was wonderfully friendly and inviting, they were great at accomodating our indecision in ordering, they happily split entrees and glasses of wine into two. On the downside, it was pricey even with a $25 certificate, the variable pacing between courses was awkward, and two of the dishes were flawed to a level highly unexpected for a restaurant of this price level.

The amuse bouche (a blue cheese mouse on a vegetable chip with lemon oil) was very tasty and things boded well. I started with the Buttered Chicory Soup, which was delicious, and unfortunately my favorite dish of the night. My companion had the Endive and Parsley salad, which was visually appealing but she felt fell flat in flavor. I liked the bits of it I sampled, appreciating the lemon dressing, but felt the olives didn’t fit the other flavors.

The scallop with mushroom was very tasty, if a bit salty. The hebi (spearfish) with beets, mushroom, and red onion marmalade was good. I felt there were too many competing flavors, but my dining companion though the combination worked. Unfortunately, the thumb-sized beets were unpeeled and not well washed. My companion was smart enough to peel them, staining her fingers red. I unsuccessfully tried to convince myself the grit was pepper, and was left with a furry feeling tongue that took a full course to get rid of.

The duck would have been excellent had it been cooked. Were it seared tuna, it would have been perfect; were it beef, it would be called bleu; but as it was duck, it was simply raw. It looked beautiful (and the sauteed edges were very tasty) but the room-temperature center portions were inedible. Had I been smarter I would have asked it to be redone before trying it, but as they had so nicely split the entree into two appealing plates I felt silly doing so. As it was, they very graciously broiled my uneaten single slice after I had finished the rest edible portions.

The waiter apologized, and said that unless otherwise specified this is how they cook their duck. I presumed he was just covering for the kitchen’s error, for through no stretch could this have been classified as medium-rare, but reading through Chowhound, I find that someone else has had the same experience. While I realize that tastes vary, I’m still hard-pressed to come up with any explanation other than a chef who do not eat duck. At the least, the waiters should be explaining how it will be prepared and asking if this is desired.

We had the chocolate soup for dessert, which was a tasty combination of melted chocolate and chocolate mousse flavored with ginger and tea. It went very well with the tasty Talijancich White Solero.

Overall, I came away disappointed. I’m sure it’s possible to eat a great meal here, whether by chance or better planning, but the misses that did occur were large and inexplicable enough to shake my faith in the kitchen. The friendliness made up for a lot, and I’d happily explore more of the menu were someone else were footing the bill, but for myself—at that price point—I’m looking for something closer to flawless.

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  1. nkurz, you are not alone in the duck experience. saticoy suffered the same, as can be read here:
    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/376335

    I guess that is, indeed, how they intentionally serve the duck. I've seen this practice before at other restaurants, although not to the extent that it was sashimi-rare, but def'y on the rarer side of things. To be honest, I don't mind too much, so long as it's a little warmer than room-temp on the interior (had it once where it was actually a little cold, and I still shudder thinking of it).

    I guess this should serve as a warning to all future diners at Wink -- if you order the duck, make sure you specify a priori what extent you want it cooked.

    7 Replies
    1. re: Nab

      After reading my post, I could see how it may come across as if I'm speaking in Wink's defense, and that diner's should dine at their own risk and not complain. That's not my intention for the record. You shouldn't have to specify doneness for duck. But who knows, now that we've learned this about Wink, that dish could be awesome if you do specify doneness (although that doesn't explain the salt burn that saticoy got).

      1. re: Nab

        I'm having a deja vu here! Nab, I'm all for trying different preparations, and if they had explained that raw is the way they serve the duck, I may have had a different reaction, but they TOLD me it would be cooked to medium rare...which would have been great with me. Salty scallops too - sorry nkurz....at least you had attentive service!

        1. re: saticoy

          Ah, I understand. Yep, different story if they told you medium rare and then they give you sashimi. After the fact, they tell you the same thing they told nkurz ... "Well that's just how we prepare the duck." Ummm, yeah.

          1. re: saticoy

            Yes. Reading your report, I felt you were served the same duck that I was. To clarify, it wasn't horrific, just raw. But I wasn't being snide when I said that they graciously roasted my remaining slice: they expressed sadness I hadn't told them earlier, brought it back prettily plated on a saucer with some more greens, and it was delicious. For me at least, service was good; it's their taste I was doubting. Considering how pretty the seared duck looked, it made me feel like they thought the appearance of the food was more important than the eating.

            1. re: nkurz

              Yeah - we had already given up on the whole thing by the time our server insisted on recooking it for us. I get the feeling that getting the skin that crispy (and it was - really really crispy) makes cooking the meat a little difficult, and the united response of "that's how we do it here" makes me think that nkurz and I are not the only ones surprised and dismayed at the dish.

              1. re: saticoy

                ..."that's how we do it here"...

                Knowing what not to eat at pretentious eateries is just as important as knowing what to order.

        2. The original comment has been removed