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Feb 23, 2010 06:13 AM

El Arbol

Wow! A group of us went to one of the soft openings for El Arbol and we were completely blown away. The food, decor and atmosphere were all fantastic. The service was impressive as well.

We had pork, beef and scallops. The sides were two dipping sauces and one small portion of purple mashed potatoes. I suspect the full menu is slightly different than what we tried at the soft opening. Big thumbs up on the food and the wine that was selected for us. I can attest to the Cosmos too! Yum!

Since this place is in our hood, we'll be there regularly. The underlit onyx bar on the second floor is going to be my spot until it warms up and I can hang out on the beautiful patio.

Go by and check it out. The decor is retro and you feel as though you might run in to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin or Sammy Davis, Jr. I really enjoyed it. They have a facebook page up but I haven't seen the full menu posted yet. Stay tuned.

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  1. Thanks for the info - what's the price point?

    I found that the location is 38th and Jefferson - relatively close to my hood, too. Here's some info and pix:

    2 Replies
    1. re: rudeboy

      Since we were at a soft opening, we didn't order off the regular menu. They are supposed to post their menu soon.

      The restaurant website:

      They also have a cool facebook page.

      1. re: rudeboy

        We went as well, on Friday night. They were a bit bottlenecked in the kitchen and our wait was long, but that's what a soft opening is about. I'm sure they'll have the kinks ironed out soon. The servers themselves where great.

        As for price point, I believe it will be relatively high. But the food was excellent. And their wine markups seem very low.

        They are definitely aiming higher than the typical neighborhood restaurant. For long-timers in that area, the feel is more like Jean Pierre's Upstairs than Brick Oven.

      2. interesting that this post survives, a post about a soft opening, and the post on the soft opening of La Credenza, or whatever didn't because per the Chowhound team, soft opening reports are not allowed. Allright Chowhoud gang, which is it going to be?

        1. Their website still proclaims "opening Feb 21" and has obviously not been updated. It seems like they would at least indicate that they are now open, instead of "check on our progress".

          1. We had a fantastic experience at El Arbol on Saturday evening. The restaurant itself is beautiful, and fairly large, covering three separate floors. We sat on the second floor in one of the white leather booths. The booths are given a little privacy by dividers that separate them from the other booths. There are also tables in the center of the room. Cork on the walls helps muffle the noise, which my hearing-challenged husband really appreciated.

            We started with the empanadas, which were good. We had the beef and pork, and preferred the pork, as it contained raisins and almonds, which made the flavors slightly more complex than the beef empanada. As a comparison, the ones at Buenos Aires (which I also like) are flakier with ground meat, while the ones at El Arbol have more of a pie crust texture and larger chucks of meat.

            I split the Ensalada Quinoa with one of my dining companions. It was excellent, with quinoa, cucumber and red onions. The lime juice “dressing” gave it an incredibly fresh taste. ($10.)

            The highlight of the evening, though, was the entrees. We ordered the “Vieras,” (I think I got that right) which consisted of three dayboat scallops with a mushroom cream sauce. ($27). They were excellent. When I got the dish, I thought that three scallops might be somewhat chintzy at the price point, but the dish was rich and filling. I couldn’t have eaten more than three, and I’m not a bird-like eater. The real show stopper, though, was the steak. My husband ordered the 10-oz filet medium rare ($30). It was truly one of the best steaks I have ever eaten. They are prepared simply with a slight spice rub, which is how we prefer our steaks. The flavor of the meat was remarkable. We liked that the filet was slightly thinner than the norm. It made for a steak that was cooked consistently throughout.

            Sides are served family style. We selected the spinach with hollandaise, the gnocci with mushroom cream sauce, and mushrooms in butter.

            Their wine list seems fairly reasonably priced, with many wines to choose from. We followed the recommendation of the sommelier and had an excellent Malbec from Argentina that was $42.

            For dessert we split an empanada filled with rice pudding, and fried milk with honey ice cream. Our group of five was split over which was better, but we liked them both.

            Service was attentive, and we were very pleased with the sommelier’s wine suggestion. I thought everything went especially smoothly given the short period of time they’ve been open. Overall, we were very impressed with the restaurant and can’t wait to go back and try some of the other dishes. It will be hard to stray from the amazing steaks, though. They also have a very nice patio which should be a fun place to have cocktails once the weather is warmer. All in all, I think El Arbol is an excellent addition to the Austin dining scene.

            1. We went Saturday night. Great atmosphere but the entrees seemed so/so. I got the 14-oz 40-day wet aged prime ribeye (it cost a pretty penny) and yet it was quite fatty and not at allt he medium-rare I ordered (she even repeated back cool pink in the middle). More like medium well. The empanadas were good though. If I go back, I'd avoid the grilled red meat and try some of the other options...

              2 Replies
              1. re: Carter B.

                looking at the menu, it does seem expensiveish considering it's not a downtown place
                i hate it when my beef is not cooked to order. so annoying.

                1. re: dinaofdoom

                  I have been 3x in so many weeks. Serious service issues have plagued what was an otherwise enjoyable experience 2 of 3 times. Tables around us had similar issues with food not showing up, or out of order.

                  Everything I have eaten here has been good or great. The empanadas are really terrific, as was the desserts. I was also impressed with the sommelier (Joe). Both times he picked wines we were really happy with and surprised by.

                  I hope they can iron out the service issues. I don't think they were the fault of a single waitperson, so much as some communication issues between servers, the hosts and the kitchen.

                  The place looks amazing. The only other place in town that does as good a job as making you feel away from home is Fonda San Miguel.

                  A little overpriced, but they gotta recoup the investment somehow.