Ken W's Profile

Title Last Reply

Austin wine bars?

I was there Friday night with my wife and we had the same bubbly ( lucien albrecht cremant d'alsace rosé alsace ). For the price, that was a pretty good glass of sparkling wine (and they give you a full glass). We also split an order of the gravlax (a cured salmon in case you don't know - I didn't), which was quite good (although the presentation needs some work). A pretty good wine bar for the central area.

Jul 03, 2007
Ken W in Austin

should I subscribe to Cooks Illustrated?

My two cents: I had the hard copy subscription for several years. The magazine is much better than most for learning "how to cook". They focus much more on how to prepare food rather than just provide recipes, so from that perspecitive I liked it. However, their recipes lack imagination - there was rarely a time where I didn't add more seasoning or make some tweaks to give the dish more flavor. So - if you are looking for a place to get ideas, I'd look elsewhere. If you want a aid for increasing your cooking skills, I think it's worthwhile.

Jun 29, 2007
Ken W in Food Media & News

Austin wine bars?

Chummy is a good way to describe the place. The owner and manager are pretty laid-back, probably I would be to if I worked/drank in a wine bar all day. They just got their licenses to sell wine by the glass, don't know if they have flights or not though. And, it's not downtown. http://vinovinotx.com/index.htm

Jun 19, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Top Chef - 4 Star All Stars Tonight

Season 1 all the way. They were more polished, more mature, more talented, more Top Chef. Season 2 was a joke. Will Bravo have learned ??? - unfortunately like kizzy said above, for many it's probably the drama that pulls them in. The promos for S3 sure look that way - we can only wait and see . . .

Jun 07, 2007
Ken W in Food Media & News

San Antonio 1604/281

Hey everyone - I'm an Austin 'hound, but will be driving down to San Antonio this Sunday to see my little sister (she's flying in for a conference). I'm somewhat familiar with downtown/Riverwalk, but she'll be visiting there with her colleagues. I was hoping to find a nice place to have lunch/brunch on Sunday near her hotel (She's staying at 1604 & 281). By perusing this board already, I've found suggestions for Cafe Paladar, Bin 555 and Celito Lindo. Any comments on these places, or other suggestions in the area? If we decide to go into downtown, Sandbar looks interesting, but can't tell if it would work for a leisurely lunch. Any thoughts there? Thanks in advance.

Ken W.

Jun 07, 2007
Ken W in Texas

Using opentable.com to make dinner reservations

I've used it several times and never had a problem, although the restaurant almost always calls you back to confirm.

Jun 06, 2007
Ken W in Food Media & News

Starlite- Excellent meal

Small world - I was at Starlite Thursday night at 7:00 PM as well. I was part of one of the 4 tops - the one at the back of the main room. I think I may remember you, if you were on the left along the wall.

I'll throw my comments in as well. I've mentioned in a few posts Starlite is IMO one of the better restaurants in Austin. Our experience was very similar to yours - some excellent points and a couple of hiccups.

First - I wasn't too impressed by the amuse bouche either, it was almost like they forgot to plan ahead and threw something together at the last minute. The wife and I had the Fried Green Tomato Salad also, and we both quite liked it. The cucumber was thinly julienned and tossed with lime and mint, making for a very light refreshing compliment to the fried tomatoes, which were very flavorful (of course anything is better fried - right ?). Yeah, there was a lot of the aioli, but it was on the side so no harm.

One of our party got the mushroom truffle risotto as an appetizer, and I had a bite - very good, creamy risotto with still a little texture, and plenty of mushrooms - quite a healthy serving for an appetizer as well.

For the entree I had the duck as well, which when I first got it I also thought it was overcooked. But, like you, I found it to be very juicy & tender, with great accompanying flavors in the sauce, grapes & foie gras, and the side of spinach. My one complaint would be I felt the portion was a little small in comparison to the others.

My wife got the nightly fish special, a striped bass over lentils that I felt didn't measure up to the rest of our meal. The fish itself was quite good, pan seared not dried out, but the lentil dish it was served over missed the mark. I had several bites and found some of the lentils to be chalky and bitter. Plus the combination of flavors just didn't work. It wasn't terrible, but they need to rethink that one before offering it again.

One of our dining companions got the NY strip, and they knocked that one out of the park (he cut off a piece for me to try). Very nicely prepared, slightly charred and crispy edges on the outside, but a perfectly cooked medium/medium rare inside - excellent flavor and very tender. I didn't try any of the sides, but the steak itself was great.

For dessert we had the key lime tart, which I found to be another winner. The tart was just that - tart - but not overly sour, and the buttermilk ice cream, not being very sweet - actually went with the tart very well. I think if they had used a more traditional sweet ice cream the dish wouldn't have worked. It was very creamy - not really like key lime pie except in flavor.

Regarding the service, we also noticed the waitress seemed to be covering the entire restaurant, but despite that she did a pretty good job, all things considered. I don't know if they had a scheduling snafu of someone didn't show up, but the front of the house was definitely undermanned. And, I have to add, when our table asked about the risotto appetizer, she blushed and said she once had a table describe it as "orgasmic", which, she added with a laugh, made her wonder if she shouldn't feel sorry for them. We laughed as well, but after reading about the "panty dropper", seems to me she may have determined the innuendo references work well when it comes to tips. For the record, the risotto was very good, but not orgasmic.

The previous time I went to Starlite, I thought it was one of the best meals I had had in Austin. This one fell a little short of that, but overall was still excellent.

Jun 02, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Cake

Sorry to hear your experience with Russell's wasn't delicious. I always feel a twinge of disappointment when a place I recommend isn't well received. But, can't say you didn't give him a fair shot. For my experience, he did the cake for my wedding, and our guests raved about it. I also love his Apple Fritters.

The more I peruse these boards, the more I'm beginning to realize that consistency is often the key to what sets a place apart. Of course, McDonald's is consistent - so it has to be consistently delicious. The first meal I had a El Gringo was really good, the second - bleah. Others have had unfortunately disappointing meals at places I liked, and I've been to places where I couldn't believe anyone recommended it. Oh well, I suppose over time and several reports from different 'hounds the truly great places will stand out.

May 31, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Best Restaraunts in Austin

I won't restate what's already been said below - other than to say "fine" dining in Austin is much more casual than what you may be expecting. I don't know from where you are moving - but don't expect the same types of places you would find in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc. There's no place in town that will turn you away if you are in jeans or make you wear a jacket. But - I think there's some great places to eat here - much of it in . . . and not in . . . the fine dining category.

For me, some personal favorites in the more upscale department are Starlite, Jeffrey's & Hudson's on the Bend. If you're from out of state, you probably should try Hudson's at some point, as it is a very unique place. I think Jeffrey's continues to be one of the city's best, and Starlite is probably my favorite overall.

Other places I quite like but wouldn't put in the same class (but still elegant dining) are Vin Bisto & Fino. I recently ate at Vin and really enjoyed the entire experience. Fino doesn't always get a lot of love here, but I like the food and the atmosphere - it has a great outdoor seating area - but I wouldn't recommend it's sister restaurant (Asti), which I believe has fallen in the last year. Uchi and Vespaio have been mentioned already, and I would recommend them as well.

http://www.starliteaustin.net/
http://www.jeffreysofaustin.com/
http://hudsonsonthebend.com/main.php
http://www.vinbistro.com/
http://www.astiaustin.com/

May 29, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Local and Organic

Check out Eastside Cafe. I believe they put a lot of emphasis on local and organic fare, although I don't know if it's only that. The food is pretty good - not gourmet, but well prepared, tasty.

May 22, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Steaks for Large Party - Not Downtown

I had a positive dining experience at Vin also, although steak is really not their focus - I think there's only one on the menu. Maybe there's another section to the restaurant of which I am unaware, but would they be able to accomodate a 40 person party?

Of the choices you list above, I've been to Cool River, Salt Grass, Eddie V's, Reed's and Texas Land & Cattle. Of that group my top choice would definitely be Eddie V's. I've had steak there, and it was done very well - even if they do focus on seafood. Won't be a cheap place, though - better confirm the budget with the bossman. I'm not a big fan of Cool River, but they could easily accomodate that large a group without missing a step.

May 14, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Jaspers is now open in the Domain

I forgot about the Gouda Mac & Cheese - the couple we were dining with ordered that and we all shared. It was very good - rich, creamy, nice firm noodles - the gouda gave it a bit of pungency. I would get that again.

May 14, 2007
Ken W in Austin

top chef-- season 3!

For the grudge match, if Season 1 doesn't absolutely trounce Season 2, the contest is rigged.

Adding Ted Allen on a permanent basis was a good move. Now, if they only picked some professionals for contestants this time . . .

May 11, 2007
Ken W in Food Media & News

Jaspers is now open in the Domain

Went last night for the first time - here's some thoughts/observations:
1) This place absolutely screams "Dallas", which I guess makes sense since it a) started in Dallas, and b) is located in the Domain. But, just like we used to say Cool River was in "far south Dallas", Jasper's is as well.
2) Billing themselves as "Gourmet Backyard Cuisine" - they seem to be a more upscale version of Moonshine or El Gringo.

Regarding the food - I found it to be near-hit and miss. To start things off, my wife and I split the standard house salad, which was good - decent sized (enough for both of us), with pecans and blue cheese. The shallot vinagrette dressing was too vinegary in my opinion, but not to the point where I thought it was bad. However, at $9 for the salad, it's overpriced.

My wife ordered the Shrimp & Pork Tenderloin Brochette and I went with the Hickory Grilled Flat Iron Steak. First the good: I enjoyed the steak - it wasn't the best I've ever had, but it was good. It was cooked to a medium/medium-rare (which is how I ordered it), and had a definite mild hickory flavor. It was tender, sliced and placed over a spinach-mushroom dish with a (I think) mushroom gravy/sauce. Per the menu, it was supposed to come with scalloped potatoes, but I was served the spinach instead. I didn't mind, since I like spinach and felt it was a healther option - but I was surprised that the wrong side was provided. For $27, though, I've had just as good meals elsewhere for less.

The brochettes, on the other hand, were disappointing. Shrimp & pieces of pork tenderloin were skewered, grilled and served on a bed of a flavored fried rice. Despite the citrus glaze, the meat was suprisingly flavorless. Additionally, the pork was close to being undercooked. I think the tenderloin would have benefitted from being brined or marinated for a while - as it just really lacked flavor (and wasn't that tender). The rice, however, was pretty good - in fact that was the one part my wife finished off.

Service was adequate - everything came out on time and together. The manager did come by to check in on us, and the waitress did seem to know the menu, even if I don't think she was originally hired for her waiting skills.

We ate outside on their patio, which was nice. I did walk around inside and found the place to be visually very modern, but still with lots of wood and subdued colors.

This is the kind of place that I would go to agin if we were getting together with friends, and the group wanted go here. I liked what I had well enough to eat there again. However, if asked, it wouldn't be the first place I would recommend, and I don't think the food was worth the price.

May 10, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Cake

If you don't mind one more suggestion - I like the cakes at Russell's Bakery & Coffee Bay at the corner of Hancock & Balcones (west of Mopac). I've always had a good experience with their cakes and pastries there.

May 10, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Vin Bistro's New Chef

I don't generally run out and dine at a place right after it's been reviewed in the Statesman, but, coincidentally, I did visit Vin this past Friday night. The new chef, Lusk, worked at Commander's Palace in New Orleans among other places, and I can tell you as someone who grew up in the New Orleans area, Commander's has a pretty high reputation.

I really enjoyed the meal. I had never eaten there previously, so can't compare to how it used to be.

They are really pushing the whole "wine paired with food" concept here. The menu lists the wines first, then the recommended dinner entree to accompany it - the reverse of the way most restaurants suggest wine/food pairings. It's a little confusing, and frankly, off-putting at first. There's more description about the wine than there is the food - which is too bad, because I think the food here is good enough not to hide behind the wine on the menu.

To start things off, we were given a (now standard) amuse-bouche of a shrimp mousse on a cucumber slice. It wasn’t the tastiest one I’d ever had, but it was pretty good. I ordered the soup of the day, chicken with greens and sage, and my wife had the mixed greens salad. The soup was good, not great – a standard chicken soup with either turnip or maybe collard greens flavored with fresh sage – kind of a twist on a classic southern home cooking dish. For me the flavors were almost a little too mild and the broth on the watery side. The salad had everything you’d expect out of a standard mixed green salad at a good restaurant – fresh greens and vegetables, not-over dressed, good flavor – a solid menu item.

Out of our party of five, three, including my wife, ordered the Cast Iron Seared Sea Bass, one of the most popular dishes according to the waiter. Easy to see why – it was excellent. The fish is seasoned and then seared in a hot pan, so it has a nice brown, slightly crispy exterior but flakey white in the middle. The accompanying lemon sauce really went well with the fish, providing a really nice acidic bite but wasn’t overpowering. The spinach also was very tasty, but the croquettes made with ricotta cheese were fabulous. As far as I could tell the ricotta was mixed with flour, seasonings, breaded and deep fried – but, despite being fried were very light. They were placed on the plate with the fish and lemon sauce over the top. This one is a must.

For my dish I chose the Five Spice Atlantic Salmon. It’s a solid dish, but not in the same league as the Sea Bass. Five spice powder is a very distinct seasoning, but an obvious experienced light hand used just enough to get it a hint of the flavor. The salmon was cooked very nicely, almost still a little rare in the center, not dried out at all. The potatoes on the side were a combination of small fingerling style, roasted and then drizzled in the butter sauce – very good.

We splurged and got dessert – the Vin Sin flourless chocolate cake and the Crème Brulee. Nothing new here, really – flourless chocolate cake and crème brulee are menu standards, and both were fine examples of a good version of these desserts. The crème brulee, in particular was quite good, as evidenced by my wife almost attempting to lick the plate clean.

Service was spot-on. Our waiter, Alan, knew the menu well, recommended a really nice (and reasonably priced) wine to start with, was frank with his opinions on the different entrees when asked, and was attentive without being intrusive. Couldn’t have asked for much more there.

The last plus is the outdoor patio - I recommend taking advantage before it’s too hot outside. All in all – yes, it’s a wine restaurant, but it’s worth going for just the food.

May 07, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Gabbi's

Went back yesterday for the repeat visit. This time went with the chili-cheese dog with fries. It was good. I wasn't crazy about the chili - it was a little too ... smooth (having a hard time figuring out how to describe it), I like mind a little more chunky/meaty, but overall it was pretty good - better than most dogs I've had around town (not that I'm really a dog aficionado). The fries were plentiful and crisp, a little too heavily salted for my personal taste, but still pretty good. Nonetheless, $6.95 seems a bit too high for a chili dog and fries (even if they are using Hebrew National dogs, as the owner told me).

My co-worker got their version of mushroom burger. It was a huge hamburger, absolutely packed with burger, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, etc. They're offering wheat buns now, by the way. I didn't taste it, but my co-worker said it was great. He couldn't finish it because of the size, but he said it wasn't because it tasted good.

For $6.95 I think the burger is a good deal. Not quite so much on the hot dogs, although I did like it.

Apr 27, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Food Network Awards (sic)

I disagree. He says what he thinks, and what many are thinking but don't say. I like his rapier sharp comments. He worked there once, I'm sure he has bad memories / harsh feelings of the place, so there may be some delight in seeing such a poor production out of FN, but I still think he's right on target.

Apr 23, 2007
Ken W in Food Media & News

Gabbi's

I'll second that Houston's burger - it's pretty good, but won't be a cheap lunch. The fries there are the shoe-string variety - very thin. They're tasty, but if you like the bigger, fatter french fry (like a steak fry), you probably won't find them to your liking. They have other sides (beans, coleslaw, etc) which you can get instead.

Apr 23, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Reuben Sandwich anyone?

I'll second the Reuben at Little Deli, but then I'll second anything that comes from Little Deli,

Apr 18, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Gabbi's

A new place just opened in the Burnet / Duval area called Gabbi's Burgers n Dogs ( it's in that little shopping area where Gracy Farms runs into Burnet/Mopac - same place as Mangia's and Taco Deli ). I'm betting MPH hasn't been here yet - since it opened just this week. The name of the place pretty much sums up the menu, burgers and dogs, although they do have a salad option and something called a fried pizza. This is strictly a lunch spot - open Monday - Sat, 11 - 3.

Swung in today and grabbed a hamburger to go. The price for all the burgers and dogs is $6.95, that includes your choice of fries, onion rings, or a salad.

I got the standard burger with onion rings. Not too bad at all. The style of the burger reminds me of Phil's on Burnet - about the same size, with the large, square soft bun and generous portions. The burger was cooked to medium-well, but wasn't dried out and had a slightly sweet bbq sauce on it. Included were substantial (but not too thick) slices of tomatoes - which were actually red (not slightly pink), romaine lettuce and dill pickles. All in all, a really good burger (note: I have not tried Casino El Camino).

The onion rings were really good. They're the standard beer batter style rings, cut to the right thickness (not too thick), weren't over breaded, and despite the fact I got them to go were still quite crisp. Plus, there was a lot of them.

Which brings me to the another point. As mentioned above, the portions on everything were generous. It's a decent sized burger, and the patty isn't swallowed by the bun, and there were more onion rings than I could eat. For $6.95, it was a lot of food. I saw them bring the salad to the table and it was pretty big.

I talked to a couple of other people eating there, and they both really liked the food. Chatted with the owner (Jeff) for a few moments - he's owned a catering business for about 10 years. He decided to base his catering operations at this new place and open a small lunch spot as part of the business (restaurant out the front, catering out the back).

I'll swing by again next week and try one of the dogs and report back.

Like I said, haven't been to Casino el Camino, but for those people who work in the Burnet / Duval area, first impressions are this looks to be a pretty good lunch option.

Apr 18, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Is Guerro's done for

Yeah - I bash SXSW and Sixth Street - I admit it - but that's just because I'm getting old. ;-P

As far as Guero's is concerned, years ago I really liked it - would take people there from out of town, it was a fun, decent place. But over my last several visits, the food quality, to me, seemed to be in steady decline. That, combined with the absurd waits at times, basically wrote them off for me. If I was with a group of people who wanted to go, I would go along without complaint - there are worse places. But I don't seek it out anymore.

And yeah - jumping the shark generally is associated with sitcoms. But it just seemed to fit here as well.

Apr 04, 2007
Ken W in Austin

El Gringo / Red House Bar

Man - I hate having to eat crow, when there are so many tastier items around, but I'm going to have to. Since we enjoyed it the first time, my wife and I took another couple there last week. Because of traffic, we were a little late arriving, and I guess that pissed off our waitress (the other couple arrived earlier) because she was none-too friendly. None the less, I settled in for what I hoped to be a good meal. Not this time.

I got the Downtown Charlie's Special. It was ok. I could probably have made it at home with the same success. The seared steak was either a sirloin or some other cheap cut, and it was chewy as a result. Shrimp - ok. Spinach - that was pretty good. My wife had the Chile Crusted Tuna, and I have to let you know - that was probably the worst dish I've had in a long time at a restaurant. She's put EG on her "will not return" list as a result. It was basically a poorly cooked cheap piece of tuna slathered in a overly sweet chile bbq sauce. Once again, EG took the tuna off the bill, but I have to wonder - if they keep having to take items off the bill there's obviously an inconsistency problem.

I still like the bar, and the food was good the first time I went. Still, with other options I like, I think I'm going to start looking elsewhere. Not willing to deal with the inconsistency a third time.

Apr 02, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Thoughts on Sampaio?

I went about a month ago and am still thirsty. Here's the post.

http://www.chowhound.com/topics/93201...

Apr 02, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Is Guerro's done for

Guero's jumped the shark a long time ago.

Apr 02, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Has anyone tried Salvation Pizza?

I tried Salvation for the first time last Friday night and found the pizza to be quite good. The crust was and thin and crispy, but not burnt, and it didn't droop in the middle. We (wife and I) had the #6 - sausage, onions, jalapenos and black olives. While I couldn't see the jalapenos, the waitress told us they were in there - just ground fine. It was spicy, so i believed her. I really liked it, the pizza was flavorful and served hot out of the over (from where I was sitting I could see them take it out of the oven and bring it directly to the table). Probably the best I've had in Austin.

Service, on the other hand, was so so. I wouldn't call it horrid, it was kind of "nonchalant". It wasn't bad service, but you could tell the staff didn't really care if you were there or not. I'd overlook though, because the pizza was good enough to go back for.

Mar 30, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Tomorrow is last day here - where to get good breakfast taco in RR or Parmer area?

I'm thinking MPH stands for "Man Get Hungry (often)". Dude - you eat out more than me. Glad you do though.

Ken

Mar 02, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Open Letter to Alamo Drafthouse

You were not the only one who ordered the Poultrygeist pizza. That was my wife's favorite - she would get it every time we went.

Mar 01, 2007
Ken W in Austin

New Restaurants at the Domain

LOL. I'll be going there with my "current" and she'll be gawking at stuff I probably will end up buying her. Unforunately, most of the restaurants don't look to exciting for a quick lunch meal.

Mar 01, 2007
Ken W in Austin

Tomorrow is last day here - where to get good breakfast taco in RR or Parmer area?

Well dammit - I thought I might be the first one to report on this place, but nooo - get back to my desk and find someone has already been there. Guess I have to eat out more often to get ahead of MPH and Knoblauch.

Anyway - was looking for a new place to try near work (Burnet/Mopac/Duval) and saw Don Luis Supertaco & Cafe. It's located just south of Parmer on the Mopac frontage road (going south). There's been several restaurants at this restaurant-killer location, but I'm hoping this one sticks around.

Why? The food was good and (for the area) not overpriced. It's a pretty straight ahead operation - nothing fancy/upscale like Taco Deli just across Mopac. Basic, good mexican food. I sat at the bar (which was nice since I was by myself - sometimes I have to get away from work and co-workers) and was waited on by Don Luis himself, a very affable guy who was in the sign business and also ran a taco truck. He saw an opportunity to start his own place and took it, opening about two months ago.

He made me a sample taco plate - one fajita beef, one chicken, one pork in green sauce. One was good (chicken), two were great (beef & pork). I like the tortillas - like mentioned above they are thin and on the cripsy side. The chicken taco was filled with plenty of meat, cheese, lettuce, tomato and slices of avacado. It was tasty, not out of this world but pretty good. The beef was fajita meat cubed, served with chopped onions & cilantro. The beef had a nice flavor, wasn't overcooked, and since they had cubed it, it was easy to take a bite without pulling half the ingrediants out. At Don's suggestion, I put some of the hot green/avacado salsa on top - the end result was really good (I took out about half the onions). The pork in green sauce was just excellent - according to Don (this one is his personal favorite) he marinates the pork in the sauce and then slow cooks it. I had saved it for last, and practically inhaled it after the first bite. Total price was $6, and I was full and happy afterwards.

For any of you other north-central Austin work area chowhounds, I recommend this as a great new little place to grab lunch.

Mar 01, 2007
Ken W in Austin