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.
My wife and I have been to Lisina about 4 times now, a couple of lunch dates and 2 times at evening.
Certainly the setting can't be faulted... a beautiful italianate-style building with courtyard, set in the midst of a beautiful vinyard... what could be better?
That said, the remainder of our experience(s) went sadly downhill from there. I will say that we were seated in a reasonably timely manner on the now-enclosed portico. However, our immediate impression was how incredibly noisy the place is. Then we remembered this being a negative comment from virtually every other friend we've know who has been here. If you're looking for a quiet intimate dinner with your date or group of friends, forget it. Plan on spending the evening shouting across your table to overcome the 100 or so other diners doing the same thing. In fact my poor wife arrived home afterward with a bad headache!
Although our waitress was attractive, perky, and cheerful, her attentiveness to obvious needs at our table was found wanting. On several occasions we had to repeat requests for service.
Next, after a long wait, the 4 glasses of Prosecco arrived at the table. All 4 were lukewarm at best, and had almost no discerable fizz, as though they had been sitting out overnight! Since there was unanimous consensus that this wine did not reach the bottom rung of acceptability, we sent all four glasses back.
Next, we were informed that the restaurant was out of its own label red wine, which astounded us!
I initially ordered the Canneloni, then my wife reminded me I'd had that dish before and found it mediocre. So, I took what I thought would be the safe route and ordered lasagne. It arrived with a thin dollop of red sauce on top, but none in the body of the creation. I found it to be without much flavor, and managed to eat only half before giving up.
Others at the table were less than overwhelmed with their dish. My wife, a lamb aficianado, found the lamb chops to be less than great. Other dishes were ho-hum.
At the completion of our meal, which included 2 $30 bottles of mediocre red wine, but no desserts, we ponied up the $250 bill for four, and all agreed this would be our last time to Driftwood.
A shame, really... we're big fans of Mandola's deli on Lamar, and love the beautiful setting of Trattoria Lisina, but there are just too many top tier restaurants in Austin to pay top dollar for mediocre food and service.
Close to a perfect dining experience.
Had Saturday reservations for 5:30. Seated on time in front of window overlooking fountain, vineyards and green hills. We enjoyed sea bass, osso bucco, veal, bruschetta and fragrant chewy bread. As well as a Banfi Red, three desserts and coffee. Finally a stroll around the winery and grounds. Service was charming, patient and professional from a lovely young lady. There were a bunch of parties of well dressed and well behaved young folks.
It could not have been a better and more transporting experience.
re: Paul Silver
I am surprised that I didn't find more current reviews of Trattoria Lisina since it has now been open for several years. I guess my fellow readers have been following the old adage that if you can't say anything nice about a place, don't say anything at all. I do have a few kind words...but only a few. The setting is unique and extremely inviting. The temperature outside on a miserably hot July 10th afternoon in Austin was only 84 degrees in Driftwood, maybe the passing shower cooled things off. The trip to Driftwood was its usual pleasant experience. The Salt Lick was hopping at 7:00 but then it always is. Trattoria Lisina is a treat for your eyes. It looses a little when you walk in, sort of like they tried hard to create an authentic Italian feel on a tight budget. The house white wine was pleasant, not $24 a bottle pleasant, but certainly drinkable. We were seated timely and our server was pleasant and efficient. The Calamari was enjoyable. Beyond that it was dissapointing. We tried a Margarita Pizza along with the aforementioned Calamari as our appetizer. I would call it pedestrian at best. It might have been helped by crushed red peppers, but the server forgot to offer them. There were 4 of us and 4 diffferent dishes. I tried the Veal Marsala. Unfortunately it was a saltfest of flavor. Totally tooooo salty, overwhelmingly too salty. Why I didn't send it back is a mystery to me, guess I'm a whimp. My wife had the Linguine allo Scoglio. She ate the mussels and the shrimp and avoided the rest. She didn't rave, she didn't complain but she sure didn't eat much. My daughter ate the Spaghetti al' Amatriciana. She complained of it being drastically oversalted, and again, she ate very little. Her fiance ordered the Grouper which was floating in butter, too much butter, not much flavor. He ate it but certainly didn't rave. We drank two bottles of wine with our meal and decided not to try the desserts, just didn't feel like we could stomach any more salt! I would rate the place as a major disappointment and will not be returning voluntarily. I would recommend virtually any Austin Italian eatery over this place. Mandolas market is light years better for example, just to keep it in the family. In fact, I really am sorry we didn't go to Mandola's Market, it would have cast 1/3rd as much and been ten times better.
Driftwood, TX, Driftwood, TX
We went with a large group around the first part of June.
I don't really have time to write up a full review, but when someone slams a place that i have recently enjoyed, i feel the need to rebut.
Anyway, we had lots of appetizers, including Calimari, which i tried and thought was cooked perfectly(crispy, not greasy), margarita pizza (didn' t try it), Antipasto Misto (good).
I had the lamb chops in a balsamic reduction. They were cooked perfectly to order, medium rare. My wife had the crab risotto, which i'll say was also cooked perfectly. Very rich, but tasty.
One of our friends had the grouper. I didn't try it, but she said she liked it. Yeah, i realize that statement doesn't say a lot. It was either not as you described, or she liked it floating in butter. I don't think she was just being nice, though.
I was most impressed by the fact that we had a large party, and no one was waiting on their food, and everyone's food was served at the right temp. We lucked out and got there during happy hour and got half off select bottles of wine.
I'm not denying that you had a bad experience. I'm just saying that we didn't and i'd like to think that our experience is closer to the norm.
One interesting tidbit. The winery next door is not affiliated with the restaurant any more.
Driftwood, TX, Driftwood, TX
Sorry Troy, but I agree with the previous poster. The food lacks all the freshness and flavor of authentic Italian food. Salt is the main ingredient. I would recommend that people continue searching for other Italian restaurants that don't mask their lousy food with beautiful surroundings.