Friday, January 25, 2008


10000 Research Blvd, Building A
Austin, Texas 78759

Yesterday I got a phone call from my old friend Joel. He knew of a new sushi restaurant by the Arboretum that was celebrating its grand opening with free sushi and Grey Goose. I carefully weighed my options - sit in traffic on my way home from work, or eat free food and drink free martinis. Hmmm... What to do?

Kenobi is carefully nestled between Serrano’s and TGIFriday’s at the Arboretum. The outside of the building is a stark contrast to the chain restaurants surrounding it - classy and hip with a great outdoor patio. I opened the oversized doors and whoa. I was smacked in the face with one of those scenes that you read about in a Manhattan chick lit novel. Young people in trendy clothes drinking martinis behind a velvet rope guarded by several cute Asian girls with clipboards. “Is your name on the list?”

“Um” I paused. I hadn’t expected this, especially not in the Arboretum. I started craning my neck around to look for my friend while digging in my coat pockets for my phone. I stuttered out Joel’s name and they immediately let me in, telling me that he had already arrived.

As I made my way through the crowd, I couldn’t help but be impressed with the d├ęcor. The place was crowded, but the high ceilings made the place feel spacious. Large stone Buddhas were strategically placed. A medium-sized Romanian village worth of photographers snapped pictures of everything in sight.

The bar was immediately to the right and I made my way to it. “Surprise me” I told the bartender. He made me an orange grey goose cosmo that was pretty freaking tasty. I continued on and found Joel in one of the dining rooms waiting in line for the buffet. We sipped our martinis as we made our way to the front of the line. And guess what. Not a single vegetarian item on the entire spread. At this point I got very bitchy. But as Joel pointed out, I was drinking a very expensive martini -for free.

So I sucked it up and we made our way out of the dining room, past the patio exit, beyond the sushi bar where several sushi chefs were hard at work. We continued on into another dining room where we could sit at a table. I watched Joel chow down on his food and started to worry. Without food I ran the risk of getting very drunk, which would completely ruin my plans of going out and getting drunk later. A super hot waiter came by to offer us more drinks. We happily accepted his offer and I asked if the kitchen was open for food other than what was on the buffet. He promptly brought me a menu.

The prices were fair and there were several items I could choose from. The usual vegetable tempura, miso soup, edamame, veggie roll, etc. I ordered a veggie roll and got to work on my next drink.

The veggie roll was average. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty, but nothing set it apart from the other 1000 veggie rolls I’ve had in my life. It contained avocado, asparagus, cucumber, yamagobo, sprouts and toasted sesame. All ingredients were fresh, but there was no enthusiasm to it. Joel conceded that his food wasn’t that good either.

We had a few more drinks, including some that we didn’t even ask for. More food and a trip to the restroom became necessary. We ordered edamame which was good- but how can you really mess up edamame? The restroom on the other hand was an experience.

The interior designer didn’t skimp on the restroom details. You went down a corridor to get to the toilets and upon entering your respective gender’s area, you were confronted with these amazing sinks. They were stone and square with motion activated streams flowing from a circular stone-framed hole in the wall. Seriously, if you go to Kenobi you have to check them out.

By 7 pm the restaurant had become very crowded, Joel and I had become pretty drunk and I felt the need to move on with the evening. So we paid up our bill – a total of $4 for the edamame + a pretty hefty tip. We grabbed goody bags full of all sorts of freebies for free food at Kenobi, products, and spa services around town. I thought it was a nice touch and proved that they didn’t leave out any details. Well except for that minor detail- the food.

Overall: good drinks, great bar, good service, excellent ambiance, decent prices, mediocre food. I could be convinced to stop by for a happy hour, but I wouldn’t make a special trip up for dinner.

Laura – 7.5