311 W 6th St
Austin, TX 78701
It was St Patrick's Day and Jenn and I had planned to go to Mother Egan's to hear The Lost and Nameless Orchestra. Due to the alignment of the stars, the beer drinking holiday and SXSW, downtown was packed. Who woulda thunk it? An Irish pub crowded on March 17th? The line to get in to see the band was lined up outside and around the corner. Jenn and I took one look at each other and knew we couldn't wait that long for a cocktail, so we decided to bar hop a little instead.
The weather was getting a little warm so we started at the Gingerman with a refreshing Snake Bite each and followed that with a lager outside on the patio. An extremely uncharismatic band strummed away while the lead singer made bad attempts at terrible jokes. I almost felt sorry for the guy and his inability to connect with the audience. When the next band came on, we had a full ten minute debate over whether their stage presence was an attempt at irony or not. The situation became such a headspin that we decided it was just best to leave.
Leslie and Joel were enjoying cocktails on the roof of Molotov, as they had seen the line outside Mother Egan's and decided they couldn't bare it either. We joined them for several beers in the beautiful sunshine before heading off to meet another friend, Sara. Sara was entertaining a friend from Michigan at the street party in front of Fado's and had wanted to meet up. When we arrived at Fado's we discovered a $20 cover to get into the street party. I was shocked and offended. $20? This is Austin, not LA or NYC and the people inside seemed to be doing a lot more slobbering and stammering than bumpin' and grindin'. We considered our options and the $20 in our pockets and thought what any normal person who had been drinking on an empty stomach would think in this situation.
I've been to Maiko a few times before. It's not one of my favorite sushi restaurants, but the location is appealing and in the past I have found the atmosphere fun. The establishment has a loungy vibe and even has DJs come in to spin from time to time. There is also a back room that my good friend Angie rented out for her 30th birthday party for sushi karaoke and it was truly a blast. The place has a vivid blue rectangular corridor that seperates the bar area from the restaurant to make it look artsy and modern, but instead succeeds in making the place seem like it takes itself just a little too seriously.
We trekked back to West Sixth and settled in to the sushi bar. After having attended Tyson Cole of Uchi's demonstration at the Whole Foods Wine and Food event on Monday (which btw was fantastic!), I had become aware that the best thing to do is sit at the sushi bar and ask the chef for whatever he had that was the freshest. Obviously this was not the same sort of situation. Even though I've been to Maiko before and interacted with the sushi chefs, the feeling I got on this day was that I was highly discouraged from making eye contact.
We ordered two Kirin Ichibans and a bowl of edamame from our waitress and started to look over the menu. The menu includes a good variety of original and creative items as well as simple and familiar ones.
We munched on edamame and ordered a roll a piece. I ordered the veggie roll, and Jen ordered a roll with tuna. I can't remember which one it was, as they don't print their menu online. It took quite a while for our food to come out. The restaurant wasn't busy, but I was feeling the "we take ourselves too seriously" vibe. Our waitress was nice but absent for most of the evening. When we got our food, I was pleased with my generic veggie roll. Jenn thought the fish was very fresh and the flavors were very complimentary to each other, but that the creation lacked execution. It just wasn't assembled well. The rice was loose and her roll fell apart when she picked up the peices with her chopsticks.
After eating our rolls, I was still hungry so I asked the waitress how long it would take to get an order of veggie tempura. She told me ten minutes, so I requested an order. What she meant, however, was that it would take ten minutes before she would even put the order in. Jenn and I sat around with our empty beers waiting and chatting about life. The tempura came out and was really delicious. I mean, I know it's hard to mess up fried food, but the bento flakes were pretty near perfect and the vegetables were fresh. Our favorites were the sweet potato and the asparagus.
We paid our bill and went back out into the St Patrick's Day mayhem to party until dawn. OK, fine, I went home and watched Family Guy in my pajamas and Jenn went home to prepare for a SXSW catering event she's throwing today. Eh, I'm OK that.
Bottom line: Good food in a loungy environment marked by lazy execution.