Austin, TX 78703
Mariah: I don’t know if a lot of you know this (even though it says it on the left hand bar), but I’m working on my 2nd Masters Degree. After the two long years it took to get my first, a fit of stupidity overtook me and I decided “yeah 2 more years of school seems like a great idea.” So I’ve been working diligently at higher education for almost 4 years now. I had a class this summer that has been an absolute nightmare. Every week I had two classes to watch that were each three hours long. As if that weren’t enough, my professor decided we needed not one but two midterms during a shortened summer class, plus a major project, and again, not one, but two finals. Who the hell assigned two finals?? But, after all that work, I was finally finished, so Laura, Elena and I decided for our own respective reasons, to get together to treat ourselves to a nice dinner. We had all wanted to try Jeffrey’s, so when Laura mentioned it, we all readily agreed.
Laura: Despite Jeffrey's being located in my neighborhood, I'd never tried it. I think it's because I've been saving it for a special occasion. Well, what other special occasion is there than the celebration of school ending for Mariah, and a return to Italy for Elena?
Mariah: I arrived a few minutes before our 8:00 reservation and since our table wasn’t ready, I decided to head to the bar for a quick drink. I have been trying to cut back on the alcohol consumption lately, since I’ve officially gained the dreaded “Austin 10” – the 10 pounds everyone gains when they move to Austin. But, I had decided to treat myself a verboten martini that night, since this was a celebration none the less.
Laura: Um, Mariah, I've never heard of this "Austin 10." I call bullshit. Sure it's easy to gain weight on all the delicious food around town, but there's tons of outdoor activity here. So, in theory, it should balance out right? Yeah, I guess not.
Mariah: From the moment my butt hit the barstool, I felt ignored and neglected, which is funny because there was only one other couple at the bar. It took the bartender a full 5 minutes to make eye contact with me before he mumbled something in my general direction. My hearing isn’t so great these days - too many shows at Antone’s in college - but I thought he might have said “what can I get you.” So I ordered the oddest martini on the menu, a “trademarked” (yes, it says that on the menu) Jeffrey’s Rosemary martini. I wasn’t quite sure the bartender heard me, because I waited another 5 minutes before it was even served to me. The martini was exactly what I was looking for, a sharp hit of rosemary followed by a mellow aftertaste of pear and lemon. Not too sweet, not too bitter. I would have loved to have sat at the bar enjoying my celebratory martini but after having waited so long to get it, Elena and Laura had arrived so we made our way to our table.
Laura: I'd been enjoying a pre-dinner bottle of wine with David at Eddie V's before meeting up with Elena for dinner - and running about 10 minutes late all day as usual. When Elena and I got to Jeffrey's it took a while to park. I ended up paralleling in the neighborhood. I should've valeted, but the problem was my car was trashed and COMPLETELY out of gas. I envisioned the valet climbing in to the piles of shoes on my floorboard, makeup strewn about and items meant to be returned haphazardly tossed only to have the car run out of fuel on him.
Mariah: Jeffrey’s is a nice intimate “date” restaurant, everyone there seemed to be in couples. I dare say we were the only single women in the joint. The décor is dark and cozy with modern art adorning the walls. The lighting is minimal and romantic. The table linens are all white and the silverware is actually silver and quite heavy. The table was even laid out properly in a way that would have made Emily Post proud. We were seated promptly at our romantic little table. We perused the menu and honestly had a hard time deciding what to order. Everything looked so tasty! Crispy Oysters on Yucca Root Chips with Habanero Honey Aïoli, Kampachi Ceviche with Citrus Salad & Lemon Agrumato Oil, Duck & Shrimp with Riso Nero Croquette, Confit Cabbage, Pineapple & Honey Ginger Glaze, and these are just a few of the options.
Laura: The restaurant at first seemed incredibly small, but when we were led to our table, I realized that only half the restaurant was visible from the bar area. The decor was charmingly and simply sophesticated.
Mariah: The service had an odd rhythm that I was never quite able to figure out. We were seated promptly and our drink orders were taken and delivered speedily, but our waitress came to take our order very quickly, before we had time to really take in the completeness of the menu.
Laura: I guess she figured you had picked out what you wanted while waiting at the bar.
Mariah: Elena and I ordered Watermelon Gazpacho with basil cream as an appetizer while Laura decided to “drink” her appetizer by way of a glass of Pinot Noir. Once we had finally decided what to order, we set out menus down, and being the social ladies we were, started to talk. We chit chatted about our lives, me about school and the boring guys I’ve been going out with lately, Elena, about her impending wedding and move back to Italy, and Laura about her crazy job that keeps getting crazier and how her GRE scores are about to expire. We talk for what seemed like forever, but the waitress never came back to the table, we saw her here and there about the room, but she never came back. Finally we flagged her down and she came running, gushing “I didn’t want to interrupt your conversation to take your order.” It was quite odd, I’ve never had a server at a high end restaurant NOT take our order because we were talking. Oh well. We ordered, Elena and I again ordering the same thing, Alaskan Halibut with Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus & Strawberry Balsamic Sauce and Laura ordering the Gnocchi with Mushrooms, Brussel Sprouts, Pecorino & Smoked Tomato Sauce.
Laura: I thought the waitress was sweet. I can understand not wanting to intrude. And they brought us tasters, small servings of an avocado soup with shrimp. I requested mine without the shrimp and then quickly slurped it down. It didn't really stand out as special, but perhaps that's because my version was missing an ingredient to make it pop that the other girls got in their tasters by the way of shrimp.
Mariah: Our soup came out quickly enough after that, so Elena and I settle in to enjoy the Watermelon Gazpacho. The first taste was amazing; a subtly sweet tomato broth with a hint of melon. The taste was nice and earthy but illustrated what I will, from now on, call the “Jeffrey’s Effect.” The Jeffrey’s Effect happens ONLY in high end fusion restaurants where the quality of the food is top notch. The Jeffrey’s Effect occurs when all the elements of a high end fusion dish blend together beautifully, except for one taste/texture/visual element that seems blaringly out of place. For example, with the soup, the taste and general texture of the soup was very pleasing, until you got the basil cream. The cream itself wasn’t bad alone, however the texture was a little too thick for what I would have preferred for soup. It had a thicker, gummy texture, more resembling creamed cheese than crème fraîche. And the flavor of the basil with the melon and lemon was very nice, but the (unnamed) dill was not. The dill was too pungent a flavor for the delicate melon tomato soup.
Mariah: As I enjoyed (and dissected) my soup, we continued to chit chat in a lady-like fashion when the spotty Jeffrey's service struck again. The bus boy tried to remove my soup while I was still eating it. Now granted, I had put my spoon down, but it was because I was in the middle of telling a story. I was telling them about the guy I had gone out with recently who kissed like a duck, and was gesticulating pretty intensely. I told the bus boy I was still eating, and he politely came back a few minutes later. No problem. But after our soup had been removed, the bread guy finally came around and offered us not a basket of fine bread, but one piece of bread. It was a tasty piece of bread, a nice white rosemary bread, slightly crusty round the edges but soft in the middle. But, alas, the bread boy never reappeared again, so I only got to enjoy one piece of it.
Laura: I've heard the duck kisser story several times now, and I can vouch that Mariah does gesticulate wildly while telling it. When the bread came by, I chose the wheat bread and I was glad I wasn't offered more. I would've just filled up on it and to it wasn't that great.
Mariah: As I was finishing my (piece of) bread, our entrees arrived and by god, the Jeffrey’s Effect struck again! My Alaskan Halibut was absolutely perfect. It was lightly crusted in a finely ground nut blend then pan cooked to the perfect doneness. The halibut was moist, tender and flakey, not the dried out white mess I get at most restaurants. The strawberry balsamic sauce was more strawberry and less balsamic, but added a nice savory yet sweet element. It turned out to be more of a thin glaze on the plate than a sauce of substance, but again the flavors melded beautifully with the fish. The blend of green and white asparagus also had a perfectly cooked texture; crisp and firm but yielding to my teeth. The thin strip of prosciutto was an afterthought and didn’t significantly add to the dish. But those crafty chefs could not leave well enough alone, and the Jeffrey’s Effect struck in full force. After I had eaten through the asparagus I discovered a small pile of strawberry balsamic soaked granola.. I think I understand what they were going for, a little crunchy starch to round out an otherwise mostly soft dish. But come on.. granola?!?! A nice pilaf or a fried polenta square would have been a better choice than the dreaded granola turned out to be. The Jeffrey’s Effect marred what was an otherwise perfect dish.
Laura: My food was ok, but I didn't care much for the sauce. The smoked tomato sauce came out unappealingly mesquite. The vegetables were very nice, but the gnocchi needed sauce, and all I had to sop it up with was the smoky mesquite concoction. I blame myself. Somehow when I read the menu I skimmed over the "smoky" part. I think my subconscious just did not want to see it.
Mariah: Dessert was not affected by the lasting residue of the Jeffrey’s Effect. We originally wanted one dessert to split, we do have girlish figures to maintain, but when presented with the dessert menu, we decided to have one each. I went with the Strawberry Shortcake, one of my favorites, Laura went with the Crème Brule, and Elena, of course, picked raspberry and chocolate sorbet. The desserts were excellent! My strawberry shortcake was perfection. The creamy Strawberry Crème Fraîche Ice Cream was light and fluffy with the lovely taste of ripe summer strawberries. The shortcake was more like shortbread, and the buttery almond cookie added a nice crunch to counterbalance the ice cream. Laura’s Crème Brule was rich and dense with the perfect brule crust. I didn’t care as much for Elena’s raspberry and chocolate sorbet, I thought the raspberry was a little cloying, but she seemed quite happy with it.
Laura: I thought the raspberry and chocolate sorbets were the best dessert. They weren't too sweet and that's exactly how I like it. Overall, I liked the food and ambiance at Jeffrey's, but it doesn't suit my taste as well as many other Austin restaurants in it's price range.
Bottom Line: Lots of almost perfect food with a few imperfections
Mariah – 8.0
Laura - 7.0