Austin Restaurant Week 2012 experiences
Thought others might want to share any meals they have this week. We went to Urban at the Domain. I've been there before and hadn't been impressed. The meal I had this week was pretty good. For starters, the wings and mussels were very flavorful. The broth for mussells was really hearty and probably could have been an entree on its own. My main was the braised short ribs on a bed of grits. The short rib was very good but nothing I couldn't do at home. The grits on the other hand were fantastic. They were cooked perfectly and very well seasoned, (note these aren't Waffle House grits so don't go expecting a pile of white mush in a pool of butter.) The only miss for me was desert, a brownie with bacon and a chocolate ice cream infused with what I believe was an orange liquer. The brownie was gooey and very good but the bacon was uneceessary and didn't add anything. The ice cream didn't enhance the flavors, a simple vanilla would have worked much better IMO. Service was excellent, probably since it was almost a ghost town.
We went to Bartlett's the other night, not realizing it was ARW. Holy moly, were we impressed! They really were on top of their game. I got the fennel/grapefruit/beet/goat cheese salad, crab cake, and orange chocolate pot de creme. They were all amazing, with the highlight being the crab cake which tasted like all sweet, fleshy crab meat and no filler at all - but honestly, I was so stuffed by the enormous salad (there must have been an entire beet in there!) that I was able to take half my entree course home and eat it for lunch yesterday. Hubby had the filet mignon, which was cooked rare as he ordered it, so that was an immediate point in their favor since most places overcook, but the beef itself was flavorful and good. His butternut soup starter had him rolling back his eyes with each bite. All in all, we left very happy, and honestly, sort of gobsmacked - we were not expecting an experience like that when we walked in the door. Well-played, Bartletts.
I've hit Finn & Porter and Melting Pot so far. Finn & Porter was excellent - I hadn't been there for a full dinner before (only events with hors d'oeuvres), and I was super impressed. I'll definitely be back. I'm not sure if it was a Sunday-only thing, but they also had several half-priced wines by the bottle that made it an easy sell to get a bottle to enjoy with our meal. The sushi starter was really non-traditional and amazing (think a watermelon cube with a slice of smoked hamachi), the lamb meatballs were divine with the pesto-mint sauce, and the desserts were great, as well.
The Melting Pot was a whim - went with some girlfriends, as we'd all been curious about trying it. I'm glad that it was Restaurant Week so we didn't spend as much as we might otherwise have; I won't be back. The cheese fondue we chose (the traditional one with the Swiss) was overwhelmed by the acrid flavor of cheap booze (there's a ton of white wine in it). The entree boullion was tasty and infused the meats and veggies well, but it wasn't so good that it was anything I'd go out of my way for, particularly at their usual prices. The dessert fondue (flaming turtle) was my favorite part of the meal, but again, not so great to be worth driving way up north for. I also had a cocktail there; it cost $9 and was tiny and weak.
Uchi and Foreign & Domestic are on the slate for next week; I can't wait.
Also went to Urban An American Grill with some friends. Three of us had the corn chowder starter and ahi salad (crusted with sesame seeds) with fingerling potatoes. The corn chowder was incredible. The Ahi salad was good but not great. The ahi was lacking in flavor and should have been served with soy sauce and wasabi. The service was very good.
Went to Green Pastures last night and was very pleased. We had:
The Balcones Lobster:Tellicherry Tempura Lobster Tail, Garlic Butter Potatoes, Crispy Kale, Sweet Corn and Baby Blue Balcones Nage: large tail lightly tempura battered served over mashed potatoes and garnished with fried kale. Very tasty and well cooked. This was the hit of the night!
South Side Sampler: (MEAT FEST)-this included 2 small jalapeno stuffed, bacon wrapped quail breasts, Five-Spice Ribs with Sriracha Glaze,Wild Boar and Cheddar Sausage, Wasabi BBQ Pork Belly --very tasty
Treaty Oak Steak
Green Peppercorn and Brown Sugar Cured Flat Iron Steak, Dijon, Treaty Oak Rum,
Pecan Broccoli, Shiraz Spiced Apple and Pork Cheek Hash.--this was good but not great, meat was a bit tough but cooked exactly as ordered (rare of course!)
Redfish and Creole Pudding
Garlic Red Fish with Crawfish Bread Pudding, Herb Butter, Green Beans, Crispy Onions--this was light and tasty and presentation was a stunning tower
Peanut Butter Fluff
Blonde Brownie, Peanut Butter Mousse, Orange Caramel and Toasted Marshmallow--definitely felt like a little kid with this fun dessert served in a smores presentation and reminded me of a reese's peanut butter cup, the orange caramel really added some depth
Mini Chocolate Habanero Creme Brulee, Shortbread and Cacao Brittle--this was better than I expected but very rich. more of a super mousse than a creme brulee and the habanero gave added excitement..first bites were super rich and sweet and then the heat would sneak up on you brittle was flavorful but too hard to eat in a ladylike manner
Wedding Cake: Italian Cream Cake, Coconut, Pecans, Cream Cheese this was less exciting. Tasty, but nothing special..could have just as easily been store bought
$36 and great service. They also had a featured cote de rhone for $25 (normally $45). I would go back to Green Pastures for ARW for sure!
I've been to Trace for their lunch menu, and it was a knockout again. I started with the Shrimp and Andouille Gumbo, which was delicious and massive. It would have been a very heart meal on it's own. The I had the Potato Gnocchi with pesto and fresh ricotta, and wow. I love gnocchi, and these were the best I've ever had. Little pillows of heaven.
I've also been to Haddington's, and that was also excellent. I started with a very simple salad with Arugula and pistachio butter and it was bright and salty and peppery and just right. Then I had the cauliflower steak on a bed of cheesy orzo. Loved the cauliflower, the orzo was fine. For dessert, I had the sticky toffee pudding. While it didn't knock me down like an Uchi or Uchiko dessert would, it was solid.
I was thinking about trying Austin Cake Ball and Kitchen next week. I had a friend recommend it. Has anyone tried their ARW menu?
We went to Uchi last night, had the Mustang and Fukuoka Selection for the first course, both were very good. We had the Sasami Yaki and Hamachi Nabe for the second course, had a little more sushi and then the Coffee Panna Cotta and Lemon Gelato for desert. The flavors on the Sasami Yaki were fantastic, those who don't like cilantro may not like it though. The Hamachi Nabe was also very good, not as much a wow factor though in the flavors as the Sasami Yaki, but very good. Both deserts were excellent.
The restaurant was packed, as usual. We're going to Uchiko on Sunday.