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Oct 13, 2008 12:28 PM

New Restaurant in old Malaga building


Absinthe Bar

French Restaurant

Who's tried it?

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  1. Not me, but:

    208 W. Fourth Street
    Austin, TX 78701
    (512) 495-9669

    6 Replies
    1. re: Nab

      well, their website certainly could use a spellchecker!

      1. re: yum72

        Drove down last night in a rainstorm to find out the kitchen closes at 10 pm.With Hog Island right around the corner we managed to get fed fairly well but I was really looking forward to a new French Fry and Absinthe source.

        1. re: scrumptiouschef

          We stopped in last night. We will be going back for food, but as we had already had dinner, just opted for drinks. REALLY liked the place.

          I had the Peche, which is ice cream, absinthe, brandied cherries and a couple of other ingredients I can't remember. It was heaven in a glass, truly. The absinthe gave it a little bit of kick and kept it from being too sweet. A friend had the Bananas Foster, another ice cream drink which is also very good. The "shakes" as they call them come with tiny sweet biscuits and custard. Yum! My husband had the Jade, which includes pineapple and midori. It was also quite good.

          They have $5 "shakes" and $5 sandwiches at happy hour. One sandwich definitely appears to be a meal, so we will be back soon. Service was efficient and friendly, and we really liked the vibe of the place. It is casual but nice. I think they succeeded in their attempt at a French-inspired bistro setting.

          Yum72, I must be getting senile, b/c I looked for misspellings on the menu and couldn't find any. Without spell check I'm useless, though!

          1. re: txgrl99

            txgrl99, glad to see you had an enjoyable experience. maybe if i find myself in that neck of the woods sometime sans the kiddo, i'll have to give it a try. possibly the menu at the restaurant is without misspellings, however, the one on their website is chock full of them. most glaring is the "deserts"...what like the sahara or the gobi??! i'd rather have a dessert, please. i just get frustrated when places take the time to create a certain image, but don't pay attention to the little things.

            1. re: txgrl99

              A quick scan of the menu reveals that they offer both "ann potatoes" and "anna potatoes", "pommes frites" and "pomes frites", as well as "breaded and fries" potatoes and "stripped bass." I'm no expert, but I'm also skeptical of "veg de jour", although that could just be my reaction to "veg." That their online menu is an image rather than text leads me to believe that it is probably an exact duplicate of their physical menu.

              I admit that I'm also a stickler for things like spelling, but I won't let that keep me from giving the place a try.

              1. re: angusb

                Now it is so obvious! Perhaps the ice cream and absinthe contributed to my spelling negligence. : ) I do think there is no excuse for a restaurant not checking such things, but I'm willing to overlook a little sloppiness for good food and drinks.

      2. My life in Austin would be so much more enhanced with the addition of a classic cocktail bar like the Pegu Club (NYC) or The Violet Hour (Chicago). Peche may not be making their own bitters or hand-carving ice (yet), but they've vastly improved what the cocktail means in downtown Austin. The drink menu is huge, maybe even a little over-ambitious for a place that I'm sure still needs time to get its sea legs, but the drinks are well thought out and (mostly) not over the top wackiness.

        Laphroaig is my everyday whisky of choice, and I'm always a little reluctant to see people mess around with it, however, after having had one of the most delicious manhattans ever at The Violet Hour -- which employs a rinse of Laphroaig -- I've started warming up to seeing it in a cocktail. Its powerful peat can be put to good use. The Mad Dog at Peche might quickly become my favourite drink in town. It's on the online menu, but they've since replaced that menu (twice) at the actual restaurant and it no longer remains, so be sure to ask for it. It's not their own creation, but they executed this monster beautifully -- 2 oz Laphroaig, 1 oz Galliano, 2 dashes Ricard, 1/2 oz lemon juice, garnish with twist.

        Another winner was the Gin & Monks -- Hendricks, green & yellow chartreuse, lime juice and bar syrup. I think Hendricks is probably not the best choice, it being too subtle, and was overcome by the other components, but still a solid drink.

        The fact that their frites were damn near right on the money really helps the situation too. They're starting with a great quality spud, "hand-cut" (using one of those hand-held cutters) to medium thickness, and double-fried in oil that's been infused with duck cracklins. Crispy outsides, fluffy ins. Garlic aoili, delicious as it was, was not even necessary. Neither was my last drink.

        I think the only unfortunate matter is that this place really needs to be in a small, dark candle-lit cave away from downtown. Instead, it looks exactly like Malaga did, save for a few Absinthe-inspired pieces of art on the walls.

        I forgot to steal a menu to take home and grade for spelling errors, but will def'y make a point to bring the much needed red marker next time.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Nab

          Thanks for the report. I'm excited now to give the place a try.

        2. Tried Peche last night, the space is pretty much the same. We had the Monte Cristo and Steak w/frites. Gotta agree with Nab, they were some of the best fries I've had in a long time, so perfectly seasoned, light, crispy, they were addictive. The steak was ordered medium rare and was served medium rare, quality of the meat wasn't the best I've ever had, but they did an excellent job sear and season wise, quite tasty for $14. The Monte Cristo was okay, it was done just fine, but for some reason I didn't especially care for it. Didn't try any drinks, but food will bring us back.

          1. I tried Peche on Friday, and I will have to go again before I pass judgment. I got the $5 happy hour sandwich (I chose Croque Madame), and it was good. The fries that came with it did far outshine the sandwich. As reported by several other people, the fries are excellent.

            The reason I went, though, was for the cocktails, and that experience was mixed. I ordered an old fashioned as my first drink, and it was decidedly watery. There's a lot of disagreement among cocktail fans over whether an old fashioned should contain any water at all, and further whether the water (if included) should be still water or soda water. I truly don't care. My preference is either for no water, or for a splash of soda water. The beverage I was served seemed to be half soda water. It was almost clear in color and had a watery flavor. It was a disappointment. My friend, on the other hand, was very happy with his Manhattan. We tasted each other's beverages and had the same reactions...he thought mine was watery (he was the first to say it), and I liked his.

            I decided to change it up entirely and order one of their signature drinks. I had the Goodbye Malaga, which is sort of a caipirinha/margarita/mojito inspired hybrid with strawberries, basil leaves, and balsamic syrup, and a base of lime juice, cachaca and Cointreau. I thought it was great. My friend had the same drink and liked it as well.

            I didn't try the absinthe, but I intend to go back and do so. They offer several types. Two are described as milder in flavor, and one of those is described as having a lighter anise flavor. They have a definite focus on absinthe, with vintage absinthe posters on the walls and absinthe fountains all along the bar, including one GIANT absinthe fountain at the front of the bar.

            My last observation is about the physical experience of the place. When I arrived around 6:00 pm on Friday, it was a cool 69 degrees in downtown Austin. For some reason, Peche had their air conditioning going full blast, and all of their overhead fans running. The air conditioning duct is a large (probably 3 foot in diameter) tube that ends abruptly with no louvers or side ducts--all the air just blasts out the end. I was seated on the western wall near the front, directly in the path of the air, and it really got to me. I moved to the other side of the table, which didn't help much, and by the time I decided that I couldn't sit there any longer and would ask to move, the rest of the tables had filled up. Next time I go, I will definitely ask to be seated at the bar or at the back of the room. I found the front of the space to be uncomfortable and unenjoyable. Whether that was due entirely to the temperature and constant breeze, I can't say.

            6 Replies
            1. re: angusb

              Angus, my turn to thank you for the report.

              I'm with you on the Old Fashioned water preferences. I find drinks like OF's, manhattans and martinis to be so wildly variable from one place to the next -- I think sometimes this is by design and other times just a lack of know-how. It's sometimes hard to know what's at hand, but if it's that particular bartender's style, and it's not to my tastes, I'll drink it and deal with it. But if it's a blatant error or incompetency, I'm sending it back. And in places like hotel bars or other generic places, I'll simply tell them my specs so I know what I'm getting. Sounds like what you got was just dead wrong and maybe even worth sending back, especially for a place that is supposed to have a cocktail focus.

              I think you're right though -- definitely need to cruise through the menu to really see how well this place stands up. On the plus side, you can't really screw up absinthe, and I know my next visit will probably have me spending some time with those.

              On another cocktail note, I still have yet to make it to Fino.

              1. re: Nab

                Nab, the variability you mention is one of the reasons I'd choose to sit at the bar next time. I like to watch the bartenders work, and that way I can see exactly what they are doing. The wateriness of my old fashioned really puzzled me. Is that really their weird interpretation of the drink? Perhaps their house bitters are weak, and so they use several ounces instead of a dash? I really might have sent it back, but it was getting steadily busier, and we didn't see the waitress again for 15 minutes after she delivered the drinks, so I just drank it down and ordered a different drink.

                I did make it to Fino last week and tried one drink, the Mediterranean Martini, which is made with Charbay Ruby Red Grapefruit Vodka, grapefruit juice, and house-made grapefruit bitters. I've recently developed a fixation on grapefruit, and I have to say that this was one of the best grapefruit drinks I've ever tasted (I'm a fan of those grapefruit bitters). My friend, on the other hand, had the Jerry Thomas Manhattan, and thought it was much to lemony for his taste. He wasn't discouraged though; he just thought it wasn't to his taste, so I'm sure we'll be going again.

              2. I had some drinks at Peche yesterday (Sunday) afternoon. I'll report back soon in a new thread using "Peche" in the title.

                1. re: angusb

                  Peche turns out to be a mixed affair.

                  The menu looks really good but I hit a snag immediately.I've been drinking some Unibroue during the afternoon and on into the evening so I'm in the mood for some potent and delicious beer.

                  I have no illusions that Peche will serve this wondrous import but perhaps they'll at least have something that approaches it."Do you have Chimay blue"."No we're really not a beer bar".Her look indicates that if I'm looking for a honkytonk slopping pints of Chimay into plastic cups while Cornell Hurd hammers away over in the corner I'm out of luck.

                  Hmmm,I look around."Yeah,I can tell.What's the best beer you have?" "Sessions". It's not a bad beer by any stretch and I do like a well made Pilsener but I decide to opt for a cocktail instead."Bulleit and soda please".She returns with a nice,strongly poured drink and we place our order.

                  We're both absolutely starving so we get the Charcuterie plate as a starter to be followed by Mussels and Fries and a Hamburger and Fries,we could've opted for a salad as a side but after reading all the raves about the fries I wanted to eat a good full two orders.

                  At least I thought I did.The fries are from a bag.They're pretty good bagged ones, at least when they're really hot, but they're not cut there.It's not immediately apparent until well into the meal when the potatoes have completely kept their shape.They've not limpened nor collapsed inwards at all.They still look like perfect little batons.Maybe they'd run out of the homemade ones?

                  The charcuterie plate is enormous.Texas sized with a giant hunk of bleu cheese[cold and hard as a brick],some smoked ham[decent]lots of bread[good],cured salmon[my companion liked it but I thought it was past it's prime]and some vinegary little cornichons that I loved.In it's defense I'll say that it could have fed two eaters and made them happy with little to follow.

                  The Peche' burger,as it's termed on the menu is a patty on a bun.Plain and dry.I ask for mayonnnaise and am instructed that they do not have mayo but she can offer me aioli.She's staring at the John Deer cap that I'm not wearing,right above my head.At that point I'm wildly searching the room for a lectern so I can give a speech from the summit about aioli,mayonnaise and any other emulsion you can dream of,quoting from LaRousse all the while.

                  The burger,ordered medium rare,comes closer to medium well,the grind is very fine but the patty has little flavor save lots of good salt applied while being cooked.The patty has been overly handled during prep.I begin pining for Cap Brasseries deliciously bloody bacon Stilton burger during my feed.Not a good sign.The bun is soft and yeasty but almost twice as big as the patty.

                  The mussels are ok.The portion is huge and the raw quality of the mussels fine but the broth has little flavor.A dash of MSG in the broth would've helped immensely.

                  The room is warm but LOUD.Underneath some terrible band is performing at Cedar Street and the bass is shivering me timbers fiercely.Don't go when there's live music at Cedar Street.The competing Peche' music is no match and having Sonic Youth[nice touch]discording vs some bar band is right at jarring.

                  Service is fast and our young waitress attends to our weal checking in when appropriate.

                  Peche' runs a fat happy hour daily from 4-8pm with $5 sandwiches and drink specials.I plan on taking advantage of this good deal soon.

                  Austin is fortunate to have Chez Nous.Neither Good Knight[despite their affiliation]nor Peche' appear to be ready to perform on this level anytime soon.

                  1. re: scrumptiouschef

                    Ouch. I'm not rushing to Peche's defense, since they do indeed have many things to work out, but I can assure you that I didn't get the same french fry fraud that was unfortunately served up to you. I chatted with the fellow who IIRC was the owner, and when I asked him about the fries, he made a point to specifically take the name of the potato's pedigree, which I promptly forgot 3 seconds later. He went further to tell me they were "hand-cut" with one of those hand-crank-thingies, and double-fried in the same oil that fried up the duck cracklins, but that it was not, to my disappointment, straight duck fat (or suet or horsey!). All that aside, I'd rather you take my word than his - the fries I had were terrific and, while the ones toward the bottom of the cone had gone limp, they all tasted like real, never-frozen spuds. They were not like Parkside's picture-posture-perfect fries which, while tasty, are obviously bagged as you noted elsewhere.

                    Afternoon Unibroues, huh ? Sounds mighty fine right about now .....

                    1. re: Nab

                      Nab,I was pretty surprised too.These were good[while hot]faux homemade but not the real McCoy as served at Railroad Barbecue in Manchaca for instance.Limpness is a good thing near the end of the feed.It speaks to the potato being freshly cut.After an hour these fries were still stiff as a board.