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Apr 27, 2012 06:00 AM

Picturing casual gourmet, fresh seafood and veggies, creative, good

wine, low-key-no-glitz, neighborhood gem. Italian seafood even better

any ideas?

Maybe too much to dream for?

Sum it up....Italian-oriented ala Napa

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  1. I'd recommend Asti, but listen to the advice of the board - I used to love Asti for this, it is in the Hyde Park neighborhood, and I've followed Emmett Fox's restaurants for some time and always enjoyed them, but just not taken the time to go in the past many months. One of my favorite dishes there has always been a great mussels en brodo... so I think this fits the bill well for you, maybe not Napa, but 3 of 4 ain't bad. If Chef Packwood's Seven was still around, I would have recommended it for you.

    11 Replies
    1. re: cpencis

      Thanks. I will give it a second look. Hit "back" after I saw pizza pictures on home page. haha. I absolutely LOVE mussels. Last trip to New Orleans ordered them 4 times, searching for best. The best were at a restaurant called Herbsaint...curry and coconut broth. I actually picked up the plate and drank the juice when no one was looking.

      Have you been to Olive and Janes? It looks interesting. We are staying at Mansion at Judges Hill. Don't think we want to do the 6th St area this time (except that Pesce looks good)...but Hyde Park or any other cool old neighborhood area sounds great

      1. re: Ambiance

        I've also been to Oliva, and I have really enjoyed it too in the past, but I think Asti sort of fit that vibe you were asking for better than Olivia. Asti is in an old converted 1920s-1930s pharmacy, Olivia is built from the ground as a restaurant. Both are neighborhood walk-to kinds of places. More upscale but also in the neighborhood style (not too far from Olivia) is Vespaio. All three are very good and I think you'll could easily find folks who'll passionately advocate for one of these. I've at one time done so. I suggest that you take a look over the menus online and get a feel for them each. I love the idea of mussels at a place called Herbsaint - the old recipe at Asti used roasted fennel and garlic in the broth and pureed, there was a lovely richness to them. Looks like they've changed the recipe since I've been.

        Not been to Janes, I'll have to look it over. Since you're talking seafood, you may get a few recommendations to take a look at Perlas... also in the SoCo area - not Italian, more upscale... but very very good seafood.

        1. re: cpencis

          Sorry, messed up on the name...It's Olive and Junes.

          Looks interesting and has good reviews. Saw swordfish and my mouth watered. Although I have had it right off the boat - so might be risky. No mussels

          Think I am very close to make a reservation at Asti's as you recommend.

          You are a doll for your help, thanks

          1. re: Ambiance

            Thanks for the link to Olive and June - I'll have to check them out!

            1. re: cpencis

              Report back from ASTI
              Well, we made it ASTI on Saturday night. Cool, lively vibe. We typically don't like tables that close together but here they were so close you literally felt like you were dining with other people. And, we met some fun ones and had a great time.

              Of course ordered the mussels. They came in a chili flake tomato sauce. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how it could have been made...extraordinarily deep and rich, hot and spicy. Perhaps maybe fire roasted tomatoes, cooked for hours and hours with garlic, oil, and chili. Fantastic. Very small mussels, not that many, but the bread and sauce were to die for.

              My husband ordered the rigatoni with panceta in tomato sauce. Pasta was homemade and once again the very Italian tasting tomato sauce was outstanding.

              Unfortunately my entree was very unappetizing. A single, small, dried up overcooked piece of trout. They offered to cook another - but I declined because the light sauce had an indescribable funny tasting sauce. Same flavor on the spinach side. I have no idea what the sauce was made of..not lemony, not buttery, not olive oil based, not creamy, not wine based. No clue. Just funky tasting.

              Think I would go back for sure - but would stick with the pasta.

              Thanks for pointing us there. We had a fun time.

              1. re: Ambiance

                Thanks for sharing the good and bad. I'm glad you had a good experience, and yes - the tables, particularly if your seated at the banquette area, are tight. Hopefully we can report back on Olive and June soon...

                1. re: Ambiance

                  I've enjoyed the Ruby Trout at Eastside Cafe, grilled and served with a shitake mushroom and ginger cream, but I have a hard time passing up their sesame catfish with garlic aioli. The shrimp and goat cheese quesadilla appetizer is another personal favorite.

                  You will not find veggies any fresher. Eastside Cafe was a pioneer of Austin's urban gardening scene, and have a 1/2 block organic garden right behind the restaurant.

                  They have a small but well choosen wine list, and comfortable dining rooms inside a historic old house.

                  1. re: Alan Sudo

                    You just made my mouth water ! Can't wait to go to Eastside!

          2. re: Ambiance

            If you like mussels, give the mussels appetizer at Carrabba's a try. I have done the same thing with the juice there.

            1. re: Ambiance

              Olive and June and Asti are solid. Asti is a little more traditional, O&J kicks up the creativity (but wins hands down for the incredible patio)

              I would avoid Peche. I've had two bad meals in a row there, and don't see a need to go there anymore except for an absinthe.

          3. The Linguini Misto Mare at Enoteca is great. Just looked on the menu... for some reason I remember it being spaghetti, but I guess my memory's just failing me.

            Anyway, it's got clams, shrimp, calamari, and I think sometimes mussels. It's in their arrabbiata sauce (which I'm pretty sure they use as their only tomato sauce- it's tasty). I've never been disappointed with it, plus you've got a nice vibe, good wine, not too expensive, nice staff. So there's my suggestion!

            PS pretty much everything else on the menu there is great, too. I'd recommend the melanzana entree as another delicious option.

            3 Replies
            1. re: popvulture

              Thanks for the lead ! Sounds fab. For some reason, I don't love linguine...but maybe they could make that with spaghetti, like you mention.

              1. re: Ambiance

                Oh yeah- I'm sure they could. I'm not really nuts about linguine either, not sure why. I've had great spaghetti and bucatini there; I also know that they make some (if not all) pasta in house.

                1. re: popvulture

                  linguine tastes more like a noodle than the other pastas to me. But, don't believe it has egg in it.

            2. In addition to Asti and Enoteca, I also recommend Fino and Texas French Bread.

              Fino is Asti's "sister" restaurant and is more all-over medeterranean with some great seafood dishes. My husband and I love their paella, particularly the squid ink.

              Don't let Texas French Bread's name turn you off. It's a sandwich/pastry/coffee place by day, but in the evenings the 29th Street location turns into a nice bistro with very local, fresh items on a weekly menu. I've had some pretty good pasta and seafood dishes there. Bonus is you can bring your own wine, and they often run Groupons (and happen to have one today!). My husband and I go there often for an "open that bottle night" when we have a nice bottle that we want to drink with something better than just a takeout pizza but don't want to hassle with a corkage at a nicer place with their own wine list.

              1. This thread is a little old, but it talks about more about Asti than any of the other ones I could find, so I'm adding to it instead of starting something new.

                I had dinner at Asti for the first time last week and it was good. The sweet corn soup was a delightful appetizer. It's a chilled soup that has a thin consistency and fewer corn kernels than I expected, but the little flavor bombs of smoked cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and croutons made it special.

                I also had the carbonara and it was delicious. The pasta was perfectly cooked, the sauce creamy and flavorful, the guanciale had a wonderful flavor and just the right amount of fat. My friend had the chicken piccata. I didn't taste it, but it looked great and she liked it a lot.

                Intriguing menu items were the Chicken Liver Mousse Crostini and Grilled Duck Breast. Has anyone tried them?