My ladyfriend and I went to Zoot last night for a special occasion (my birthday!) and thought I would weigh in-I'm new to Austin (moved here a year ago actually), so I never made it to the old location. Zoot had been at the top of my list of places to try. I grabbed a fearless critic when I moved here, and have been trying to hit all of their top restaurants, despite my love/hate affair with their writers. the committment to fresh locally grown ingredients was right up my alley, and what I had seen of the menu's seemed exciting.
The menu was relatively simple-I wouldn't say sparse, but 5-6 entree's and appetizers. We started with a charcuterie, and a cheese plate off the desert menu. This was obviously pretty decadent, but why not. My only criticism here is that both would have enjoyed a few more garnishes, as the rilette in particular was quite rich.
Entrees followed of a seared swordfish and a roasted porkshank. the execution of each was flawless-the pork was incredibly tender, and the swordfish a nice med rare. The swordfish also featured a subtle sauce with citrus that I enjoyed, but the fish and the pork were seasoned perfectly. I found the orzo served with the swordish a little past al dente. Finished things off with the strawyberry mousse, lemon shortcake and rhubarb sorbet, which was the star of the evening. Get it.
There seem to be a couple of critcisms here and on Austin 360 (Could their website design be any worse? where are the reviews? oh, at the bottom of the page! eh.)
1. The service: Flawless. The service was attentive and the recommendations were knowledgeable. I am really picky about decent service and frequently just leave restaurants with poor service right out of the gate. It's not going to improve.
2. The location: I thought it was a nice drive...cruise down 360, turn on Bee Caves go 5 miles, turn left. Pretty sure I didn't leave Travis County. The restaurant is pleasant enough-Bee Caves strip centers aren't exactly Rundberg.
3. Cozy: Yep. Tuesday night was moderately busy, but it wouldn't shoot to the top of my list for a quiet weekend dinner.
I'll be back. Not quite top tier, but miles ahead of most (Fino or Asti for example).
Just came back from Zoot. It was a huge disappointment. Three of us all had the tasting menu. $55 for five courses ($85 if you had wine, we didn't). The meal started with an amuse bouche. Slivers of frozen melon. Nothing wrong with it, but in my mind the purpose of an amuse bouche is to amuse the bouche. The melon was tasteless. Next up was seared scallops served with corn and toasted sunflower seeds. When I say scallops, there were three of them. For three people. The corn was kind of semi creamed. It wasn't a bad dish, but normally the seared part of the scallop should be at least slightly warm. Ours were room temperature. And where was the taste and texture? Scallops don't have a lot of flavor, so they need something help them along. Creamed corn is not the answer.
And then there was a salad. The waitress informed us that the green were locally grown. She neglected to inform us the Parmesan was local, too. Come on. Bland with no character. Fish next. oven baked halibut, the size of a fish stick. The fish itself was really good. Fresh and perfectly cooked. The rest of the dish, though was lacking. It was served with straw mushrooms, snow peas and a wonton (filled with what might have been cream cheese) in a five spice consomme. It might have looked good in a photo shoot for a supermarket magazine, but the reality was pretty bad. Everything was drowned in the bitter, yet bland consomme.
At this point, I ought to point out the speed of service. It was glacial. The first three courses were so small that they took no more than five minutes to actually eat. And an over an hour to bring from the kitchen, which brings us to meat course.
NY strip. "How do want that cooked?" is usually a good place to begin when ordering steak. Not at Zoot. It was our way or the highway. The four ounces of meat was obviously top quality before it was cooked, but something went wrong in the process between refrigerator and table.
I want to remind readers that this was a tasting menu. May I'm weird, but I expect a tasting menu to have food that tastes of something.
The steak dish consisted of four types of squash that were steamed to perfection and very nicely presented, and the steak mentioned previously. The steak had a nice crust and was barely pink in the middle. It had been barely seasoned. There was no sauce. I took one slice and before it reached my mouth, I knew I was going to be disappointed. It was dry. It had obviously been sitting under a heat lamp for at least twenty minutes.
Did I mention the speed of service? As the steak was brought out, my companion noted that he could see our desserts being prepared. Unfortunately, this time saving idea didn't really pan out. By the time we had eaten the steak, dessert had liquefied and had to be thrown away.
When dessert#2 turned up, it was almost pretty good. Goat cheese pan acotta with strawberries and served on a balsamic reduction. The pana cotta was excellent, as was the 1/10th of a strawberry. Note to chefs out there - if you make a balsamic reduction, using HEB own brand is a poor place to start.
To sum up, it was the exact opposite of what a tasting menu should be .Bland, boring and poorly thought out and badly prepared. I will never go back.
re: Tapioca Dextrin
No. See the below excerpt...
In the European Union, "Parmesan" is a protected designation of origin; legally, it refers exclusively to the Parmigiano-Reggiano DOP cheese manufactured in a limited area in Northern Italy. Outside Europe, most notably in the United States, similar cheeses may be sold under the name Parmesan, considered generic. When they are sold in Europe, they must use another name, such as Kraft's "pamesello italiano".
The name is trademarked, and in Italy there is a legal exclusive control exercised over its production and sales by the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese Consorzio, which was created by a governmental decree. There are strict criteria each wheel must meet early in the aging process, when the cheese is still soft and creamy, to merit the official seal and be placed in storage for aging. Parmigiano-Reggiano has become an increasingly regulated product; in 1955 it became what is known as a certified name (not a brand name).
Outside Europe, the name "Parmesan" is treated as generic. The European Union campaigns against the use of protected European food labels by producers outside the designated region of origin, which might eventually lead to dropping the word "Parmesan" from cheese products originating outside the designated production region of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
I read the review. I find it odd, fairly uninformative and I probably don't agree with it.
We went to Zoot a few weeks ago, on a Sunday, the place was sparsely populated, hence, maybe, our overall good experience. I loved the old Zood (I also used to live nearby) and always thought it was underrated. I loved the space and always thought that the service was understated and responsive and the food, though not the best, of consistent high level.
The new Zoot is not that anymore. First, it is far and hard to find. Second, the place has no charm. Bye bye old little house and cozy atmosphere; welcome strip mall and large place with a Spanish looking patio overlooking the parking lot and the highway called beecave. The inside is the same old furniture, that I used to like, as it was a sharp contrast to the old house. Now it looks nondescript.
The service was efficient and cordial but not very knowledgeable, your standard Austin little girl who knows little about food. We git complemented several times for making our food choices without her help. The food was very good, I don't remember enough details to go into them, but it was very well executed and with very high quality ingredients. Desert was excellent using fresh local Poteet strawberries.
All in all, we will come back, probably not much, as it is far and there are similarly good places closer.
I hope this helps.