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Oct 7, 2013 05:01 PM

Where I have recently eaten in Austin and what I wish I can get

Mettle - Liked the decor. Memorable dishes included deconstructed beef tongue tacos and an interesting watermelon appetizer. Hope to see more from this place.

Arro - Everything was good but nothing memorable. Irked that there was a charge to bread and butter especially with mains that exceeded $30. Feels like its undecided in its identity as a true French Brasserie or a more eclectic destination restaurant.

Barlata - IMO the best Tapas I have had in Austin. Is it going to be comparable to Spain? no. But I salut its willingness to put pigs feet and squid ink and morcilla on the menu. The squid stuffed with fennel sausage in a squid ink sauce was fantastic. I hope lots of people order these more adventurous offerings so that they stay on the menu. The availability of drinking wine through porrons also really help transport one away from Austin.

The Dojo - disappointed. Perhaps I shouldn't have tried to compare it to Raku in Vegas but there needs to be a lot more work put in to the food and a few of the dishes such as the grilled eggplant dish was pretty much inedible. I did enjoy the ankimo as well as the steamed clams in Sake but the misses missed so much that it marred the overall experience.

Benji's Cantina - On the pricy side for mexican food but why should Mexican food have to be inexpensive to be good? Thought $40 for a pound of fajitas is really steep but was able to get a half pound and would have to say that it was enough meat at half a pound. It was damn good. Tender as can be and robust with flavor. Perhaps needs a slightly lighter hand with the salt. The Pork adobodos was also delicious with good texture and a deep depth of flavor. I entered the place expecting to hate it as another spot catering to well dressed cougars looking for a quart sized margarita but I went away pleasantly surprised.

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  1. What I wish I can get in Austin.

    1. A decent soup dumpling. Being a native of Shanghai, I require this dish of my childhood. If the best soup dumpling aka xiaolongbao of Shanghai or Taiwan is rated at a 10, the current best soup dumpling in Austin is maybe a 4.5 to 5. I just want one thats at least a 7. More savory meat, more rich soup, a thinner wrapper that doesn't break.

    2. A late night Yakitori joint/Izakaya joint. A place where I can get organic chicken knees and deboned chicken wings on sticks grilled over Japanese charcoal, and hearts, and tongue, and liver, and gizzards.

    3. More bakeries. Its still too difficult to find a great baguette or croissant unless if you are in specific areas of Austin.

    4. A great Southern Restaurant. I have yet to have anything that rivaled the oxtails I've had at Soul Food Wednesdays at Ben's Longbranch.

    5. A great cajun creole restaurant.

    6. A source for dry aged steaks. Whether that be a restaurant or a butcher shop.

    7. More inventive Italian restaurant. I think places like Vespaio and La Traviata are great but I can make an awesome Carbonara or Cacio e Pepe or Amatriciana or Spaghetti al Vongole at home. What I can't make nor even conceive of is something like a fusili with octopus and bone marrow (to pull something from Marea in NYC).

    8. True head to tail dining. Where's my shop that only makes lechon or Babi Guling and you get a plate with a piece of crispy pork skin, some pork meat from the butt, some fattier meat from the belly, a piece of liver, and a slice of blood sausage. Or a Beijing Duck place that separates the skin and meat,serve the pieces of skin with rock sugar, takes some of the dark meat and stir fry it, cooks the bones into a soup, makes the liver in to a pate, marinate and poach the gizzards.

    10 Replies
    1. re: lixlix

      What upcoming Austin restaurants should stay away from.

      1. upscale and safe versions of some ethnic cuisine. Its fine to have an upscale version of a cuisine of any ethnicity. What is not good is when the only thing upgraded is the plating and decor.

      2. Another restaurant where I find a cheese plate with cheeses from antonellis, a mussels dish, a charcuterie plate on the appetizer menu. A mains menu consisting of just A beef dish, a lamb dish, a fish dish, a scallop dish, a poultry dish all consisting of some kind of seared protein with some sauce and some accompanying vegetable and the only thing I have to go on to distinguish this dish is the inherent quality of the protein and whether it was cooked to a correct doneness. Hint: creative cooking is more than just what sauce and vegetables you pair with your seared protein.

      1. re: lixlix

        Any place where the waiters and wait staff are hipsters. These people just make you feel like crap for trying to get service or information about the dishes.

        1. re: Rptrane

          More annoying is the servers who try to explain a dish to you thinking you don't know anything about it when they've just learned about the dish themselves maybe a day ago.

          I remember complaining about a duck breast that was very tough and was described as being cooked sous vide. The server instead of making amends or taking the dish back, tried to explain to me that the rubbery texture was because it was cooked in a water bath at low temperatures, I was some kind of rube. I cut her off and said "yes yes, in an immersion circulator at 140F, blah blah, now please alert the chef that he's doing it wrong".

      2. re: lixlix

        Winters Family Beef has dry-aged beef. They're at the Mueller farmers market on Sundays. You can order from them in advance and they'll bring it to the market, or you can just see what they have that day.

        1. re: kosheri

          Any idea on the price for ribeyes?

          1. re: rudeboy

            Their website says $24/lb. She had a 2 lb+ one there last time I bought something. It looked delicious but was way out of my price range. Here's their products and pricing page:

            1. re: kosheri

              Thanks for the info! It does seem pricey, but a 12 oz dry aged prime steak in a restaurant can run over $40. Hell, even places like Bob's and Ruth's Chris serve wet aged prime, which is about 20% water, and sell them upwards of $50. Last time I checked, Sullivan's doesn't even serve prime (USDA Select) and acts like they are a premier steakhouse.

              I found a site that explains this well - here's an excerpt:

              "Faison hauls down a rib rack; at just 30 days, it’s much less mature than Mirarchi’s, but it’s already lost 14 percent of its original weight. He asks his butcher to trim off the crust and cut it into rib eyes, and by this point, it’s lost a total of about 40 percent, which goes a long way in explaining why dry-aged beef is so expensive. It takes almost twice the original amount of meat to “make” a dry-aged steak. "


              so really, you can't afford NOT to buy Winter's Family Beef! Thank you for the link....

              1. re: rudeboy

                You're welcome! Let us know how the ribeyes are. I've only had the strip, ground beef and either skirt or flank. All were good. It's grass-fed, btw, which I didn't mention before.

                1. re: kosheri

                  Yeah, I was wondering about that.....I figured that it was, even though the website doesn't state that. It should, though, since that would be another selling point (since it is important to a lot of people).

        2. re: lixlix

          Has Whole Foods stopped dry-aging or were they not producing a satisfactory product? I've only had a bit of their dry aged beef several years ago, cooked by a friend. It was pretty good, though not in the same league as the Bon Appetit article. (the beef was not recording birthdays yet...)

        3. Never heard of Dojo or Barlata but you have aroused my interest. Will have to give them a try especially Dojo since it sort of in my stompin' grounds.

          Mettle, I can easily live without.

          1. I wish there was better Korean BBQ available. A place where you can cook over actual charcoal instead of frying it. A place that has ssamjang and lettuce for making ssam. My first stop whenever I go to SF or LA is at that kind of KBBQ place because I haven't been able to find one here.

            I grew up in Hawaii and I miss plate lunch. I'd even settle for Zippy's at this point. :-) I also miss gyudon.

            I wish there were more independent deli's in Austin. We have a few but it would be nice to have more so it's less of a production to go find one. I also echo lixlix's point about bakeries for the exact same reasons.

            5 Replies
            1. re: tori_atx

              I haven't been in a long time, but have you tried Chosun Galbi? I believe they do coal. Also I think most grill it yourself places serve samjjang and lettuce especially if you get sam gyeop sal.

              Thats funny about Hawaii as me and a friend was just discussing the Hawaiian peculiarity of combining a starchy side (mac salad) with a starch based main.

              The deli scene is a wasteland in Austin. Its feels like its just Melvin's at this point.

              1. re: lixlix

                If that's the place near 35 and 290 that used to be an Outback, I went there a few years ago and I want to say their grills were electric and used what looked like toaster oven heating elements in the bottom. It was long enough ago that I don't recall what all we ordered but we didn't end up with lettuce and ssamjang even after asking. It was a few years ago and I will happily go back and try them again because in my book pretty much any KBBQ is yummy. Thanks for the suggestion!

                I know I'm not going to make this sound appetizing, but here goes... most mac salad in Hawaii seems to be very over-boiled and it has a lot of mayo in it and it's kind of sweet so it doesn't *seem* as much like a starch as it does just something sweet and fatty. Yeah, I didn't make that sound good-- but somehow it is in the context of a plate lunch. :-)

                1. re: tori_atx

                  you might be right about the toaster oven heating element. Its been so long I don't remember.

                  As to the lettuce and Samjjang, my first tip of Korean restaurant dining is try to go with a Korean if you can. It really seems to improve customer service in my experience.

              2. re: tori_atx

                It's a bit of a drive, but Killeen has C & H Hawaiian Grill. I believe it's run by a couple that moved to Texas from Hawaii and serves up plate lunches to the local military folks.

                1. re: verily

                  Thanks for the info-- if I ever end up around there I'll give it a try! :-)

              3. Had the pleasure of eating at Barlata's last night and it was exceptional. The atmosphere was delightful, the waitress was knowledgeable and extremely helpful, and the food was terrific. Don't miss the lamb chops, pass on the paella, make them tell you about their happy hour if you are there timely, and enjoy, I know we all did.

                5 Replies
                1. re: edberliner

                  glad you bumped the thread and reminded us of this place.

                  1. re: edberliner

                    oops, edit. I read too fast, thought you said bartlett's. Don't know barlata's, but it sounds good.

                    1. re: edberliner

                      i'm a fan of barlata's. underrated in my opinion. If i had one change i'd reduce the menu by 25% in hopes of really knocking the remainder out of the park. You could probably ditch the whole paella section. They just can't seem to get it right.

                      1. re: ieathereforeiam

                        there was a tapas place in boston that i loooooved, and they also suffered from a similarly long menu (and their paellas weren't that great, either).

                        very cool that they have more specialized things, like the squid ink and blood sausage dishes.

                        1. re: ieathereforeiam

                          We ate there Tuesday. Greats: stuffed squid with fennel sausage in ink, lamb pinchos [that isn't the right word... can't remember], duck leg, desserts, goods: bacalao, catalan toast. Nothing was off... everything was pretty solid... but I can see why the idea of paring down sounds good.