Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Austin >
Mar 3, 2008 05:31 AM

The best of the best of the best...

So I was all excited that my b-day falls on a Friday this year and then I get blindsided that my parents are coming in to "visit" me for thr/fri/sat. So there goes that. However, the positive is that they are going to take me out to dinner.

I was going to use my Trio certificate but now I can save that till later.

So, dinner on Good Friday, money is no object (they can afford ANYTHING). So, with money being no object, where would you chose to go?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Will you be limited by non-meat choices because it's Good Friday? Like a seafood restaurant?

    1 Reply
    1. Driskill Grill or Aquarelle

      1. Jezabel has been getting good reviews on this board lately. Perhaps that is worth a try.

        14 Replies
        1. re: Honey Bee

          That was my first blush decision. However, I'm ashamed to say I still have not tried any of the "greats" everyone talks about here (Aquerelle, Uchi, Driskill, etc.)

          1. re: amysuehere

            Since they have gobs of $ I would say Driskill or Aquarelle since those are the priciest

            1. re: amysuehere

              If your parents would be open to sushi, then I would go to Uchi. Definitely a place you need to visit...and you can have fun while running up a pretty hefty tab :)

              1. re: Honey Bee

                Our extended family had a tasty, impressive, and memorable special occasion dinner at Uchi. Fun celebratory vibe and excellent service. I think it is a bit too confining to characterize it as a sushi restaurant -- while there was sashimi and some rolls, I liked the tempura and some of the grilled or cooked items.

                Not for your splurge dinner, but be sure to take them to Sam's for some amazing brisket and ribs to take out.

                1. re: nosh

                  I know everyone speaks very highly of Uchi and since my parents' places are severely landlocked (El Paso and Swan Valley, ID) I know my pop would go ga-ga over Uchi.

                  Question though...I'm outing myself, but I'm not a real fan of the very, very subtle flavors I've encountered with the Japanese fare. Would you qualify Uchi under that umbrella of flavor?

                  I'm also considering Driskill Grille's six course tasting with wine pairing. I could go for the 9 course, but that's pushing my luck I would think.

                  I looked at Aquarelle's menu and I think that would be wonderful, but would bore my dad. He's more of a food snob than I am, and he gets plenty of real French.

                  1. re: amysuehere

                    I don't find Unchi lacking in flavor and the time we did the omakasee (sp) -- essentially the tasting menu we were blown away. I'd definitely go here if it were my last night in Austin and I had the budget.

                    I haven't been to Driskill in quite some time. Aquarelle is nothing special except ambiance and price.

                    1. re: Carter B.

                      I agree with Carter B. about Aquarelle. It also seems like I haven't read any actual chow reports that raved about the Driskill Grill's food since David Bull left the restaurant. (To be completely honest, I wasn't blown away by meals served there when Chef Bull was still on the job.) As far as I can recall, I haven't seen any raves, here on chowhound, about Aquarelle, either. Yet these two restaurants are often the first two of "the usual suspects" that come up on threads about "the best fine dining" in Austin. They are expensive, no doubt about that. I'm assuming that spending a lot of money on underwhelming food is not part of your birthday expectations.

                      Since Trio, Jezebel, and Uchi are out, have you thought about Cibo? I think Carter B. has posted about it recently, so it should be easy to search for details. I also had a nice meal there in the past couple of weeks, but I haven't written up my notes yet. I need another couple of weeks to work through the backlog.

                      There's also Hudson's on the Bend. It's been a while since my last visit (a year or so), but they often have an interesting chef's tasting menu with wine pairings.

                      1. re: MPH

                        Trio's the only one that's out, and that's just because I have a VERY nice certificate I can use later (was actually going to use it my birthday weekend).

                        Which would you pick, mph? Jezebel, Uchi, Cibo?

                        HOTB - the last two times were completely forgettable. I really think they're sliding on their reputation of late.

                        1. re: amysuehere

                          I've been to both Jezebel and Uchi in the last 2 weeks and they were both great. I thought Jezebel had the edge, though. Some of the flavors at Uchi were a little incongruous, while everything at Jezebel felt like it was working towards a common goal.

                          1. re: amysuehere

                            That's too bad about HOTB, but thanks for the update.

                            If I were in your shoes, I'd probably go with Cibo or Uchi, with Jezebel as a close runner-up—especially if I wanted to avoid a loud atmosphere. I'm intrigued by the recent reports on Jezebel's chow, too, but something about their online menu suggests that their chow may be Castle-Hill and Cafe-Josie-like in terms of busy flavor combinations. Personally, I don't like Castle Hill and Cafe Josie. I'm still going to check out Jezebel soon, but I'm not sure that I'd choose it for a blow-out birthday dinner with the folks. I do really like Cibo; on occasion, their pasta has been too salty, but I just send back bad dishes. Portions are relatively small, but I've enjoyed some truly sublime chow there—including appetizers and secondi featuring chicken liver, roasted or braised pork, and steak. I should warn you that the industrial-modern, sleek room can get really noisy. Some people that I've taken there have had not enjoyed the vibe at all, but it seems fine to me. Like you, I still haven't been to Uchi, but I listed it because special occasions are great excuses to try new places. Plus, with family, you're usually able to enjoy tastes of everyone else's orders.

                            I know it's off the table for this dinner, but for your future visit, I had a great steak dinner at Trio [report to follow relatively soon, I hope]. The acoustics and busy location can make a dinner there feel like one is eating at the food court of a really nice train station. Plus, their à la carte ordering system—in which you choose your meat and sauce, then pay separately for all sides—doesn't always add up to a decadent meal, especially for diners who prefer the pampered, you-decide-for-me, all-inclusive dining experience.

                            As for the Driskill Grill, well, who knows? Their menu doesn't appear to have changed significantly with the new chef, which might mean that their tasting menu still follows the taste-of-every-darn-entree-on-the-menu model that they used previously. I didn't enjoy that at all, since I prefer tasting menus that are designed as a thoughtful progression of flavors and textures. But if that's not a factor and you've enjoyed the DG in the past, it might be worth the risk.

                            This thread is making me really hungry. I'm looking forward to the report on whatever restaurant you choose.

                            1. re: MPH

                              We've only been disappointed by Cibo once in about 10 visits there. It can be a bit loud but sadly their crowd is usually pretty sparse. It's been on our death watch list for a while now but seems to be hanging in. One thing we like about it is there are seemingly two menus--one of modern trendy dishes (pork belly) and a few reliable "original Cibo" Italian dishes. And the stuffed pastas are always out of this world.

                              We've only eat at Jezebel once about a year ago and that time was disappointing--we tried the choco-covered salmon but that was an experiement that didn't work out. We also had a vegetarian eggplant special that was pretty tasty but was a pretty astonishing $32. The buzz on this board has us wanting to try it again sometime soon.

                              As for Trio, we've eaten there twice and the smoked ribeye was awesome and all the other dishes well prepared and tasty but nothing that left us dying to come back.

                              I should have mentioned in my first post he best meal we've had in the last 6 months or so (including two different Michellin three stars) has been at Wink. We did their early Feb. tasting menu and every dish was perfectly prepared. Still judging by the negative feedback from a few months ago, it seems their kitchen can be inconsistent.

                              In sum, I still vote Uchi as I think it is perfect for you as long as you don't mind the wait (or getting that 7pm reservation). We had the good fortune of visiting Momofuku a few weeks ago and its food reminded of Uchi--that perfect balance between creative fusion and traditional Korean (Momofuku)/Japanese (Uchi).

                              1. re: MPH

                                Okay, Uchi omakase it is!

                                As to Trio, here's the scoobie. I have a very special certificate (came leather-bond and everything) for a full evening at the Trio with Chef picking out a multi-course meal and the new Sommelier picking a pairing for each course. It will be an evening to remember.

                                1. re: amysuehere

                                  That sounds like a fantastic evening! The green eyed monster is alive and well - I'm jealous.

                        2. re: amysuehere

                          No, I would consider Uchi's flavors bold and sometimes daring (this is part of the reason my hubby doesn't care for it--he is a Japanese food purist). Take a look at the online menu and see what you think.

                2. Another good choice is the new restaurant, 'Imperia' for Asian Fusion. The food here is excellent and the service is top notch. I had a Kobe (confirmed it was a unique 'Kobe' beef and not 'Wagyu' which is often the case) grilled lean steak filet with a mushroom ragu on top. It was superb and the missus had the Miso Chilean Sea Bass which she devoured.


                  2 Replies
                  1. re: SpaceAgeNinjaCowboy

                    kobe lean steak filet? kobe is the opposite of lean -- supposed to be marbled, buttery, rich, not lean.

                    1. re: nosh

                      Yep, scratch that word. It was exactly that. It's what I get for typing that last statement on the way to a meeting.

                  2. Given the posts above, I'd strongly recommend the omakase at Uchi. Definitely a magical and delicious adventure, and very accessible to a wide range of palates, not just sushi or Japanese purists.

                    If you're planning on going Friday, I recommend going early enough in the day that the wait won't be completely absurd.