Thursday, April 7, 2011

Austin Restaurant Week - Spring 2011

It's that time of year again; time to clean your palate and exercise your stomachs. It's Austin Restaurant Week (the Spring version anyway). Between April 10-13 and April 17-20, eat at any of the participating restaurants and a portion of the proceeds will benefit the Capital Area Food Bank and Meals on Wheels. The best part? Everyone is offering special menus!

I know there are so many dining weeks now that its hard to keep track of them all. Thankfully you have me to do that for you. But knowing when they are is really important. There really is no better way to experience some of Austin's finest restaurants for no more than $35. It's really a steal (at some places). But where to go and what to eat? Fear not, my fine foodies. I've reviewed all the menu's so you don't have to. Here is my list of this (semi) year's best:

Aquarelle - $35 dinner - (menu) - How can you turn down something as delicious sounding as Beef Tenderloin In Cinnamon Demiglaze, Farro With Sundried Cherries And Marscapone, Wilted Spinach, Parsnip Curls. What a great spin on a middle eastern tangine.

Braise - $35 dinner - (menu) - A newcomer to the Austin restaurant scene. But with options like Dark El Rey chocolate crusted Atlantic salmon with a garlic caper infused olive oil or Spicy Jamaican Jerked pork shoulder over crock pot black beans with cilantro gremolata how could you NOT check them out?

El Arbol - $35 dinner - (menu) - The food at El Arbol is generally pretty good, but this menu is drool worthy. Vieiras Doradas - day-boat scallops, avocado, fried brussels sprout, yucca chip, saffron-cayenne aioli, citrus gastrique and a dessert of Bacon-Brioche - Bacon gelato, brioche bread pudding, poached raisins, walnut streusel, brûléed bananas, whiskey-vanilla sauce. You had me a bacon gelato.

European Bistro - $25 dinner - (menu) - I haven't heard much about this new place, but I've always felt there has been a hole in Austin cuisine for Eastern European/Germanic food. Looks like that might be closing considering they offer an appetizer of German Potato Dumplings - Two potato dumplings with Hunter’s Sauce and an entree of Chicken Kiev served with rice and medley of peas, carrots, and onions. The price point is nice to try if out if you haven't yet, though!

Fabi + Rosi - $25 dinner - (menu) - Also in the Eastern European/fusion cross over category is the delicious and out of the way Fabi + Rosi. I'm putting then on this list specifically for one of their Entree offerins - Zwiebelrostbraten - Wagyu Sirloin, Grilled Onions, German Potatoes. I can't even say it, but I sure want to eat it! Plus, the atmosphere is really nice. $25 is a real steal if you want a cheap date.

Fino - $35 dinner - (menu) - Fino is always delicious and, really, they have one of the best patios in town. If the weather's nice, head over and try an entree of Rainbow Trout Navarra with jamon Serrano, fingerling potatoes, lemon, and herbs and a cheese plate from Antonelli's for dessert. Mmmm.. (P.S. They're also offering a special brunch menu for $20 that includes a delicious cocktail and 2 course)

Kenichi - $35 dinner - (menu) - Kenichi has been quietly upgrading their menu for the last year. It's no longer just a place for the pretty people in Austin to snack on sushi before going out. There's some real substance to their (non-sushi) dishes now. I want to try them for the sweet barley miso roasted halibut with avocado mousse, asian pear, yuzu, crispy potato alone!

La Sombra - $25 dinner - (menu) - Tucked away up north, I always seem to forget about La Sombra, but the food is pretty interesting and the drinks are delicious. If you want to stay away from the crowds downtown, this might be your bet. Try the Feijoada con Codorniz - Whole roasted quail with a Brazilian style cassoulet of black eyed peas, sausage, and hearts of palm

Olivia - $35 dinner - (menu) - I've always thought the food at Olivia is good, but sometimes uneven. However, I totally want to try the appetizer Pork Rillon Fondue - Crispy Pork Belly with Apple Butter and Grafton Cheddar Cheese Fondue

Paggi House - $35 dinner - (menu) - Everyone I know who's eaten at Paggi House always complains about the horrible service. However, it might be worth braving the inept servers for an appetizer of Oyster Fennel Soup - Crispy oyster, lemon crème and an entree of Tea Brined Duck Breast with Asparagus Quinoa Slaw, Orange Gremolata, Foie Gras Jus

Parkside - $35 dinner - (menu) - Parkside is one of my favorite restaurants in Austin hands down. And they don't disappoint with the restaurant week menu. An appetizer of herb papperdelle with sofrito, fennel, sunchoke, fava bean an entree of meyer lemon risotto with mascarpone, grilled asparagus, almonds and a dessert of frozen meyer lemon soufflé with raspberry gel, bruleed raspberry, lavender cream, honey foam.

Uchi - $35 dinner - (menu)
Uchiko - $35 dinner - (menu) - How exciting to have Uchi and Uchiko on the Restaurant Week list this year! I don't need to tell you how delicious both of these places are and what a good deal with is. If there are any open slots, you need to take one no matter what they're serving. The Sweet Corn Sorbet at Uchiko is worth the $35 alone!

Zandunga - $25 dinner - (menu) - I don't know much about Zandunga. It replaced my old Italian favorite, Primizie (which I'm still bitter about). But I might be closer to coming to closure if Zanduga offers Puerco dulce - Braised Pork Belly with Mole Dulce paired with Yucca- plantain and bacon hash. I am consolable with mole

There you have it. This year's list of the best of the best. Now call those restaurants up and go eat some cheap food!