Anyone been to Mandola's new restaurant in Driftwood?
Pretty self explanatory. I was out at the Vineyard before the restaurant opened, read in the Unamerican Spaceman that the restaurant was open now, and want to know if it is worth the trip.
I was at Trattoria Lisina about a month ago, after they had been open for two weeks. I don't usually pay much credence to atmosphere, but they have definitely succeeded in making sitting on the patio looking out on the vineyard evocative of Tuscany. I really like what they're trying to do with the food, too. The menu is an attempt at authentic rustic Italian cooking. We started off with salads, which weren't noteworthy. Some mixed greens with the usual stuff, plus olives and artichokes. Actually, my wife's salad had an artichoke and mine didn't, which makes me think that they served the salads from a large pre-made bowl instead of composing each one separately. My wife and I shared the spaghetti carbonara and the osso bucco. I originally tried to order the braised oxtails instead of the osso bucco, but they were sold out. The carbonara avoided two of the pitfalls people on this board complain about -- inclusion of cream and putting a whole egg yolk on top. (For the record, I think the carbonara dish at La Traviata is delicious, even if you want to argue about whether it is authentic.) The pasta would have been delicious, but it seemed that someone undersalted the pasta cooking water, so the dish was underseasoned. I think that night the osso bucco was the better dish. The meat was falling-off-the-bone tender, the flavors of wine and onion simple. Again, not enough salt. The bed of creamy polenta mixed with the sauce and made a nice combination.
All in all, I think they've got a great idea in keeping things pure and authentic and serving them in a really enjoyable setting. I probably would have been a little disappointed because of the underseasoning had the restaurant been in the middle of Austin, but in a rare case for me, the overall experience made up for it. I'm hoping that the kitchen was still getting its bearings and the kinks I mentioned will be worked out if I return.
Sorry not to have posted sooner. I was being lazy.
Driftwood, TX, Driftwood, TX
What a beautiful location, gorgeous sunsets, charming ambience, however the food and service was a total disappointment. Veal saltimbocca, which the waitress said was their most popular dish, tasted and looked like re-cooked dried ham, inedible, with no sauce. Roasted chicken was extremely undercooked/bloody and delivered to the table at least 5 minutes after other entrees. Spicy pork ribs were good, the rabbit and duck were uneven; some bites were good, others dry. The $28 porterhouse was a good safe bet. Several of our party thought the salad and antipasti were the best items to hit the table. The kitchen definitely needs some expertise. We may go again, but just for pizzas and wine.
A couple of friends had been and said it was worth trying, so I took my wife for here birthday. Being an Italian, who's family is from Northern Tuscany, I can defiantly say, that I know my Italian food. I had mixed expectations, since the people who told me it was worth trying, also think Nutty Brown Cafe has good food, and for anyone who has ever eaten at Nutty Brown, you know that is just not the case. I have to give the place an "A" for look, feel, and ambiance. Great looking building, grounds, and facility. Since I made reservations, we basically were able to walk in and sit down. I was a little bummed when the waiter asked what we wanted to drink, I answered a Moretti, and was told that they only serve wine, so after looking at the wine list, they only had one Chianti, and I do not care for wine enough to spend $11/glass, so I went with water.
My first big shock was the menu, and my shock was that no matter how many times I looked at it, I could not find anything that looked appealing. I was looking forward to a nice bowl of Gnocchi or some Linguini with clams, muscells, and scallops, or even a nice Chippino, but nothing of that sort was to be found. The menu was really unappealing, and if you are not a big Veal person, you are out of luck. Decided to go with Lasagna, figured, no one can screw up Lasagna. My wife went with a Linguine with olives, tomatoes, and get this Tuna.
The bread provided before the meal was very good. When the meal arrived, I just about fell out of my chair. When I ordered Lasagna, I never in a million years dreamed of what I got. Lasagna in a white sauce? Well figured I would go ahead a brave it, it is complete blasphemy to make Lasagna in a white sauce, but thought it would be worth trying, WRONG. This was by far the worst lasagna I have ever had. I think the main problem is that it was so rich, that it made you sick. My wife was nice enough to offer to trade me plates, but her Linguine was even worse. The fatal mistake on the Linguine was to put Tuna in it. The Tuna made the entire dish, taste like some nasty fish that had been laying on the dock in the hot sun. I normally love Tuna by itself, but now I know, do not ever put Tuna and pasta together in the same dish, wow, it was really bad. So for the food I have to give them a grade of "F", that was by far the two worst Italian food meals I have ever tasted. I have traveled most of the world, and had my share of bad Italian food, that has to be at the top of the list.
For desert, we had coffee, which was very good, Gelato, and some chocolate cake thing, which my wife said was very good. The Gelato I had was very good as well. So for the desert portion, I have to give them an "A".
Overall: The service was very good, the facility was first class, while the food was horrible. If you decide to go, do so only to check out the place, have a glass of wine, and some coffee, if you decide to eat the food, set you expectations low, I really do not see the food getting much better. The way the menu and food choices are done, to me at least it is clear the path that they have chosen. While they have a little story on the menu about the Italian lifestyle and how their menu builds upon that life style and culture, I would have to disagree. Our Italian family is pretty large, and we never ate much Veal, nor does my family back in Tuscany eat much Veal, but yet a good 1/3 of the menu is devoted to Veal, we do however each a lot of fish and other seafoods which are amazingly absent from the menu. I hate that the food was so bad, I really wanted a place close to home, which this is, that we can go to and get a good meal. We spent $65 on the meal, and tipped the waiter $15, so out the door for $80 bucks.
This bread - It is like an over-baked Pillsbury roll. Which would be ok in other circumstances, but not cool here. I sent it back.
Fried calamari - the breading is entirely too thick....like when you get onion rings and the onion falls out of the ring crust. That situation. Plus it was fried for too long. I mean, seriously, when all the tentacles are popping out of their breading, something is wrong.
Proscuitto - ok...not horrible but it was sliced too thick and it didn't seem as if it was cured for very long.
Salumi - this was a giant hot dog. Yes, I realized there was more than one type. They all tasted like hot dogs. Hot dog city. I like hot dogs too. But only when they are actually hot dogs.
Fresh mozzarella - tough, not silky at all. I expected something very soft, maybe even buffalo mozzerella.
Olive oil - so there were quite a few things marinated in olive oil and it's also a dipping sauce for the crunchy Pillsbury rolls so I thought I needed to comment on it. It tasted far too oily and not nearly enough olive-y. This was not high quality extra virgin stuff.
Carbonara - This is my favorite pasta dish of all time. WHY did you have to do this to me, Lisina? Your pasta was an overcooked starchy mess. I applaud that your carbonara sauce was done in a more authentic method (no cream), but it was bland. The pancetta was not crisp, not flavorful, and just haphazardly torn and tossed in there. Some pieces were crumbles, others were huge. The starchy pasta in combination with the slimy sauce made for a very poor experience. Extremely disappointing. I felt like this was cafeteria quality pasta. I mean, eggs are kinda slimy to begin with - I feel that, especially with carbonara, you need to make sure the pasta isn't a mushy starch-fest.
Cannelloni - this was a meatball enchilada. It was ok but I would not order it again.
Osso Buco - the veal was not very tender, but that's ok. What really bothered me was the marsala sauce. It tasted like gravy that was thickened with corn starch. It was salty and otherwise bland.
Patate Arrosto - The potatoes had WAY too much oil on them and the skins turned into a hard, unpleasant leather. I mean, a bit of texture and chewiness is good, but this was over the top. This was sent back and replaced by...
Mashed potatoes - I'm sure they had some fancy Italian name for this. It was clear that the potatoes were pureed, not mashed...so why are they telling me that they were mashed? Well, it's one or the other and they were definitely pureed. I felt that they were undercooked. It was gritty. In fact, I could barely tell the difference between this and the polenta (ok, I could, but the consistency was eerily similar). Not such a good sign.
Roast chicken - ok this was good. The skin was crisp and the chicken was tender. Good job.
Chocolate mousse cake - I don't recall what this was called, and it didn't seem particularly mousse-y to me, but I think that is what the waitress called it. Anyway it was a flour-less chocolate cake. Kind of like a fudgier NY cheesecake consistency but super chocolatey. The cake itself was decent. Nice and dark, rich. The raspberry syrup on it was grossly sweet. Like high fructose corn syrup sweet. The whipped cream topping came from a can.
I loved the red wine. Unfortunately I have no recollection of what it was.
I should add that the atmosphere was nice and the service was ok. Unfortunately, we were served by a new waitress who could not even remember the names of our dishes or who ordered what. That's ok, though...it happens.
I am a much bigger fan of La Traviata as far as trattorias go. And really, it is way more trattoria-like.