Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Trio Happy Hour

98 San Jacinto Blvd
Austin, TX 78701
(512) 685-8300

Laura: This week Trio hosted a blogger happy hour to show the foodies around town just what their menu holds and as a way to say "Hey, we know we are located in the Four Seasons Hotel and this is a recession, but we aren't that snooty or expensive, honest!" Mariah and I are always up for checking out a new place, especially when it's well executed, comped and full of kick ass blogger friends.

Mariah: I'd been avoiding this place for months. I'd heard good things about it, but I have to confess, I'm prejudiced. I have a deep loathing of most high end hotel restaurants. They're snooty, a little too polished and full of pretentious food that just doesn't taste all that great. I've experienced more than my fair share while traveling so I expected the same here. While I'm confessing, let me also tell you that the following meal we're about to review was 100% comped. BUT this in no way effects our review. I looked and the prices and honestly weighed it into the review as if we were paying for it.

Mariah: Did I mention they have free (FREE) valet parking. That was another reason I'd been avoiding this place. I didn't want have to pay for the privilege of eating there. I admit I had a fairly negative feeling about this place before we even got there. But the free parking made me feel a little better. Oh, and its REALLY handicapped accessible. The restaurant is on the ground floor of the hotel, but there is an elevator that takes you down if you need it (which I still do).

Laura: We arrived fashionably late to find the food and drink was already a flowing. This time I remembered to bring my camera, a crappy little point and shoot, but a camera nonetheless.

Mariah: We grabbed seats by some of our favorite fellow bloggers, Logan and Rachael of Boots in the Oven and Crystal of Poco-Cocoa. Usually at comped food blogger happy hours (yeah we've been to a couple now) have a selection of wine, around 3 or 4, and a table with 4 or 5 of their appetizers on them. Pretty good, but the Trio folks with their deep pockets had gone all out. They let us order anything and everything off their happy hour menu our little foodie hearts desired. Everyone ordered what they wanted, but it quickly de-evolved into a family style pot luck. Take a little bit and pass. That was how I ended up with a tasty oyster before I'd even sat down to order.

Mariah: I have to confess, I hate cooked oysters. They're usually chewy, too smokey, and have an off taste. But for the sake of y'all I swallowed my pride.. and the oyster too. And it wasn't half bad. The bacon added the obligatory smokey baked oyster flavor without an overpoweringly smokey flavor, that was balanced by the addition of shoestring potatoes. Baked oysters still aren't my favorite, but these are probably about the best I've had. Take that with a grain of salt.

Mariah: Someone else at the table had also ordered the something that isn't on the happy hour menu, braised pork ribs in a muscat grape sauce. Now, I tried a rib and wasn't impressed by the mix of flavors. First of all it was incredibly spicy. So spicy that it almost burned my mouth. But the sauce that was on it, a muscat grape reduction just didn't grab me. So I have another confession. Sometimes for potlucks (with people who aren't foodies) I make a dish a personally abhor, but the uncultured masses always seem to love, meatballs in a grape jelly sauce (with ketchup.. honestly). I know, it turns my stomach too. But I made it as an experiment a few years ago and it turned into such a hit, that I get request to pull it out from time to time. But thats what the sauce on these spare ribs tasted like. Oh, and I found out that pig the spare ribs come from was bought by the chef of the restaurant and ONLY fed pecans. That kind of grosses me out. I know its just as inhumane as foie gras and I still that but it still rubbed me the wrong way a little.

Mariah: But no sooner had a stuffed a rib down my gullet than more food arrived. This time it was seared beef sashimi. The sashimi was on a bed of glass noodles and fava beans. Again, not my favorite dish. The beef was served cold, and tasted of the 2 things I hate most in the world, cilantro and celery.

Laura: They get an A+ for presentation on this one.

Laura: Then there was the wine. I looked up and down the wine list and was fairly impressed. There was a good selection of sparkling, red and white wines. This is the Mum's and was really delicious. At $19 a glass, I can't say I would order it on my own dime at full price, but it's reasonable during happy hour from 5-8 when wine by the glass and appetizers are half price.

Mariah: I honestly don't remember what I ordered. But I ended up having the glasses of white wine (hey I wasn't paying for it) and they were all good. The chablis was the best, but I can't remember the label. Sorry. And then was when I fell in love at first site. I have a soft spot in my heart for anything raw, so when the tuna tartare arrived, I was immediately intrigued. But when I took a bite, I knew I'd fallen in love. The tuna was completely 100% fresh and amazing. It was on a bed of mashed avocado and had a lovely lime vinaigrette. The accompanying sesame crisps were a night and day difference from Paggi House's overpowering taste. They were perfect with the understated tuna. Love. Love. Love.

Laura: When the cheese plates were brought out, the chef was kind enough to give us an in depth description of what they were. Unfortunately I was too busy snapping photos to really listen and Mariah was too busy guzzling her wine to pay attention either.

Laura: Luckily Crystal from Poco-Cocoa and her friend was paying attention and could fill us in later. Thanks Poco Cocoa!

Laura: All the cheese was locally made. The one on the far left was a very subtle goat cheese. And the one on the far right was a really sharp blue cheese. Mariah and I weren't too impressed with this cheese plate until later on when they had moved to room temperature. At that point my favorite was #3. It was soft and rich and perfect with the glass of crisp and mineral flavor rich Chablis I moved on to.

Laura: Um, did I mention the truffle fries? They came with lightly fried crispy rosemary and a lemon butter aoli that was amazing. Sadly there were only 3 vegetarian options on the happy hour menu. This was one of them.

Mariah: OMG! The truffle fried were great. At first I didn't taste the truffle, but the more I ate, the more I tasted the subtle truffle flavor.

Laura: Logan and Rachel from Boots in the Oven ponder the question: What menu item have we missed?

Laura: Oh yeah! Chipotle Mac and Cheese! Eh, it wasn't what I would expect from a Four Season restaurant. It was more like mid to upscale BBQ restaurant Mac and Cheese. At Trio I would expect something more like the Mac and Cheese from Wink. The chipotle didn't complement the pasta and heavy cream correctly. Mariah said they used liquid smoke, but I'm thinking it was more of a vinegar-like Tabasco flavor. And even though this wasn't a perfect dish, I couldn't stop myself from eating it. So there you go, it obviously wasn't that bad.

Mariah: I managed to snag a quarter of a lamb slider. I wasn't a fan. The cumin was way overpowering. I would have liked to have tasted the tzatziki or the lamb for that matter. But the spices just overpowered the burger. I also had a mussel with a blue cheese sauce that was messy to eat but had a really nice flavor. I'd have never thought to combine mussels and blue cheese. I also had a crab fondue covered bruschetta that was really tasty in a "this is sooo bad for me" kind of way. The white cheese fondue was more b├ęchamel-y than fondue-y, but it still had a nice clean flavor that I would totally eat again.

Mariah: But when I saw it. The most amazing thing I'd seen all night.. When I encountered perfect... In the form of smoked shrimp croquettes. Perfectly deep and crispy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. The filling of perfectly smoked shrimp oozed out of the steaming croquette. The fennel and green mango slaw was nice, but couldn't fold a candle to the perfectness of the croquette. I even ordered a second plate for dessert. Really.

Laura: We were stuffed and since Mariah and I have no self control whatsoever, we headed outside to check out the patio and physically remove ourselves from the vicinity of the food.

Mariah: The grounds and patio are probably the one thing I liked the most about Trio. The food wasn't all that spectacular, but the view was amazing. Perfectly manicured laws and sweeping views of Lady Bird Lake, punctuated with oases of aderondacks and hammocks.

Laura: We tried perching on the hammock but apparently that just wasn't in the cards for us. And Mariah may have unintentionally flashed the patio patrons in the process, so we sat on the patio near the heaters and did a little bit of people watching. The restaurant backs up to Town Lake. I often pass the Four Seasons when I'm jogging or riding my bike. There is a good sized green space that serves as a buffer between the two. It's executed in a really cool way to make you feel like you are part of the city and the scene, but yet you are a little set back from the sweat and exercise of the trail.

Laura: And there goes Adam and Jodi from Tasty Touring.

Laura: I heard that Bruce Springstein was there soaking up the food and drink too. I didn't really notice. I was more obsessed with how awesome this couple was. They were so happy an in love after all those years. I got a little choked up by them.

Bottom Line: Good food, thorough wine selection with reasonable happy hour prices. Absolutely amazing patio area.

Mariah: 8.5
Laura: 8