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Apr 18, 2007 01:50 AM

The New Mars

Anbody been to the new Mars on SoCo yet? I want go try it this weekend

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  1. I just went on Wednesday. I've never been to the other one, I didn't even know there was another one. I've only recently moved to Austin, and my roommate and I were driving around SoCo to find somewhere to eat appetizers. We weren't even sure Mars served food, because all we could see driving by was a lot of people sitting outside on the nice patio with wine glasses. But once we went up, we could smell really good food. I was a little disappointed to find everything (food and decor) is trendily Asian-inspired, and the prices were a little high (not sure how this compares to the original Mars).

    Atmosphere-wise: Outside it seemed like a really laid-back coffee shop almost, just tables and people dressed casually sitting around, some people standing and talking with wine glasses. Inside it's totally different, very dark, very red, very hip in a cliche sort of way. This is just the dining area; behind some red "Asian" screen I could see a bar, but didn't get a good look. It was also a little loud, but probably because it's small.

    The service was good, I really don't have complaints, except that the hostess was a little... I don't want to say rude, but it was very obvious that she'd had a long night (this was around 9:30-10pm). Our waitress was very nice, very helpful with me trying to find something on the menu that wasn't too spicy.

    We only ordered appetizers since we weren't that hungry. I would assume that the menu is the same or pretty similar to the original Mars, and the quality here was excellent, period. My only complaint really was that the beef on my tenderloin satays was pretty rare, but that is just my personal preference for eating hockey-puck-well-done beef.

    I probably will only go back for special occasions or dates, because I don't like Asian-fusion food enough to pay $30 for an entree. But if such occasions arise, I will definitely not hesitate to return.

    11 Replies
    1. re: eliza0124

      the original is a great hideaway for dates , trysts whatever. It's just kinda sexy in there. Does the new one share that particular feeling?

      1. re: Rustcat

        Yeesss... I mean I don't really go to restaurants looking for "sexy," so I couldn't really say for sure. It was certainly dark with lots of black and red, attractive waitresses (well actually the "busboy" was this sort of unattractive old man), and there were a few couples, but I'd say I saw a lot more groups, inside and outside. Inside there weren't many two-person tables that I could see. The hostess offered us one table by the window and another that was pretty much in the middle of the highest-traffic lane right next to the bathroom.

        Not sure what you really mean by hideaway for trysts - are you cheating on your wife or something? ;) I guess the setup inside (pillars, screens, dividers) does leave each table with a little bit more privacy than you'd have in a big one-room dining area.

        1. re: eliza0124

          What exactly did you eat besides a too-rare-for-your-tastes tenderloin satay? Can you describe the appetizers in more detail? I'm more interested in the chow than I am in the restaurant's atmosphere.

          1. re: MPH

            Well I didn't eat exactly much else since we only went for appetizers, as I said. I had the tenderloin satay and my friend got the baba ganoush, which I didn't try, but I did try the toasted pita or naan, I don't remember which, that came with it, and it was delicious. We even found a piece that was still doughy/uncooked inside, which is not great, but does mean that they make it fresh at the time instead of having a fridge full that they toast throughout the day/week for each customer. I did order a drink, one of their signature cocktails, let me remember the name, something like a South Congress... No sorry I can't remember the name exactly. But it was good, anyway. It had pomegranate liqueur, lime juice, and maybe rum? And then we got dessert, some kind of hazelnut chocolate mousse which was decent, but the banana ice cream that came with it was INCREDIBLE.

            1. re: eliza0124

              Thanks for the descriptions of the dishes you tried at Mars. So far, you're the only chowhound who's eaten at the new version of this place, so these details are likely to be helpful to other 'hounds.


        2. re: Rustcat

          The old one had fantastic atmosphere and closeness, though it could get quite loud. The new one? The atmosphere is... well, really different.

          While the new digs are gorgeous, the best description of the vibe yesterday evening (Friday) was "DALLAS HAS COME TO AUSTIN!", which is great for Mars' bottom line, but sad for the years of happy dining memories I have had at Mars.

          I recognized the bartender, and no other staffers -- possibly a bad sign. The wait was quoted as an hour and a half. We hoofed down to Vespaio instead and were sat in twenty minutes. Our meal was excellent; I had a lamb scallopine with snow peas and four delicious raviolis; my wife stuck with their supremely reliable lasagna bolognese. I think I'm still full, actually.

          My wife had been to the new Mars several days after the opening; she mentioned she also didn't see anyone from the old Mars either. She said the food was pretty much the same as the old Mars, and the service was well-intentioned but clumsy.

          I'll make it to Mars on a weekday soon; I hope they haven't changed their delicious beef tenderloin. Cross your fingers!

          1. re: tom in austin

            not cheating on anybody, just being descriptive

            1. re: Rustcat

              Didn't think you were. Been to Old Mars with my wife many, many times; the vibe was close and romantic, as you said. I'll miss that place. I also liked that it was nextdoor to the Dog & Duck.

              1. re: tom in austin

                Went this weekend for the first time since it moved. Ordered the beef tenderloin, salmon salad and an order of naan. First thing I noticed was that the prices had been jacked up about 10 bucks each since my last visit (maybe two years ago). Not sure why they moved to South Congress but they have officially entered the overpriced category that many new places in town suffer from. The portions are small and the wines by the glass are unimpressive. My companion got the beef tenderloin and was happy with it, but not smiling as he ate (a quark about him that helps me know if he loves his meal or not). I tasted the mashed potatoes which were tasty. The side veggie was not memorable or particularly tasty, in fact it was overcooked and slightly mushy. The one mushroom that came on top though was fabulous and had an incredible depth of flavor. Earthy and smoky -- mmmmm. They should have served more! The salmon on the salad was served rare despite being ordered medium. It was bland with no real spice and served on top of bagged mixed greens with a few avocado slices and red pepper pieces. The dressing was so tastless I don't even remeber what kind it was supposed to be. The pile of naan (which it would be a stretch to call it that) was served cold and was too thick and kind of rubbery. You might note many of my complaints were on the execution side, so if you had a better experience it may be because you had better service. The place was about 3/4 full on Sat at 6:45 ish -- we waited about 35 minutes for our meal. Our waiter was MIA and only offered a wine refill when we were both done our meal and the dessert menu was presented.

                1. re: kirelerya

                  Thanks for this report, Kirelerya!

                  The trick with the beef tenderloin is to order extra sauce, extra mushrooms, and extra leeks. The reason is that the amount they'll give you is variable from visit to visit (chef to chef? supply on that day to supply on another day?). Emphasizing that you want extra assures you'll get enough.

                  1. re: kirelerya

                    We went to Mars this past weekend as well, on Friday. We got there 'early' (6:30) so that we could get a table, but ended up waiting about 20 minutes in the bar while they found us a table - the restaurant was less than half full at the time, so I suppose there were a bunch of reservations.

                    The four of us shared the appetizer sampler platter (hummus, baba ganoush, short ribs, gyoza, bread, veggie spring rolls). The bread was good, but everything else was alright. The baba ganoush was spicy, which I found odd. We also had the tuna tartar, which was also just alright. We were all starving from having waited, so we did gobble everything up.

                    I had the snapper special (red snapper with a sweet spicy sauce, rice and snow peas), which again, was 'alright'. My friend had the chicken curry bowl, which she didn't think was flavorful enough. Our friends from california had the 'surf and turf' (the salmon and beef combo) and the beef special of the day. They liked it, and said the food just hit the spot for 'yuppie food' (which is what they were in the mood for).

                    We paid about $250 for four, including drinks. I don't often spend that much on dinner, so when I do, I want it to be really really good! Nothing tasted bad - it was all good, but nothing was amazing, and given the price of the food at the new Mars, I think the food needs to be much tastier for me to go back.

        3. I just did a quick search for their website and it appears that the prices are what I remember at the old location. Can anyone who went recently confirm this?

          3 Replies
          1. re: ashes

            They are from 3-6 bucks higher on the items I recognize.
            Yuppie food indeed.

            1. re: chucklesmcfarland

              Ridiculous. Mars was overpriced in the last location!

              I live down the street so I'll probably try it eventually. The patio does look nice.

            2. re: ashes

              The prices are what I've paid recently. I always take a gulp when I see them because the old location was so cozy and low key, but I have always had a wonderful meal, and they have a great wine list. I haven't been to the new location yet but am happy to see the Thai Bouillabaisse on the menu. The broth is so good I always have to order a side of rice to go with it.
              The down side has always been the noise. I hope this location is better.