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Tasting menus in Austin


elion_84
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What restaurants in Austin offer tasting menus? When we were in NYC in June we had the tasting menu at Gramercy Tavern and it was an awesome experience. I would like to try something like that here.

I think Driskill Grill may have something like that. What about other places? Any recommendations or reviews?

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Elion,

While several Austin restaurant do offer tasting menus, their courses often seem to be lifted from the a la carte offerings. I reviewed one such experience at Wink, on Lamar, which you can read about

here. It wasn't the best.

Jeffrey's and the Driskill both offer tasting menus, although Jeffrey's dishes can also be found on the regular menu. Aquarelle seems to follow the same pattern. In terms of service, atmosphere, and quality of food, I haven't found that dining at Wink, Jeffrey's or Aquarelle really approaches an experience at GT, but it may be worth a shot.

I believe that you can do an omakase at Musashino or Uchi, where what's on your plate depends on daily arrivals and the whims of the chef, but don't know if that's what you're looking for.

If you do check out any of the local tasting menus, please report back, because I'd love to find out what other people think.

Lauren

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Musashino doesn't even know the meaning of the word Omakase. I sat down and tried to order it and the guy at the sushi bar looked at me like I was from Mars. AVOID Musashino if you like "real" sushi (ie: like in New York or LA). I avoid sushi totally in Austin period, since no one here really 'gets it'. Austin's best sushi is grocery store quality stuff in LA.

The best tasting menu I know of in town is Aquarelle. Rob and Terry change it seasonally depending on what is available and good, and there is always a well chosen wine supplement to go with it. The price ($60) last time I was there was very reasonable for the six courses.

Cheers,

Rob

"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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rob, you really think that all of the sushi in austin is that terrible? have you been to uchi? the fish there is as fresh as anything you will find in the united states outside of say 10-15 places. i would know, i pick it up from continental when it arrives from tokyo nearly every day...

casey

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To be fair, I have not yet been to Uchi. To be equally fair, I am used to the most authentic Sushi available on the West Coat (which is where I learned to eat sushi.) I will need to try Uchi and must exempt it from my comments since I haven't eaten there.

"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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  • 2 weeks later...
Musashino doesn't even know the meaning of the word Omakase. I sat down and tried to order it and the guy at the sushi bar looked at me like I was from Mars. AVOID Musashino if you like "real" sushi (ie: like in New York or LA). I avoid sushi totally in Austin period, since no one here really 'gets it'. Austin's best sushi is grocery store quality stuff in LA.

i don't know. i think it's unfair to say only new york or los angeles has 'real sushi'. one of the best sushi places in the U.S. that i've been to is in a strip mall near irving, texas (between dallas and fort worth). we ran into Shigeki Maruyama, the famous japanese golf player, during our visit who apparently goes there all the time when he is in texas for a tournament. the chef was expecting him and his pictures line the walls because he is a frequent diner. all sushi restaurants have western-inspired rolls and entrees. you can make your experience as real as you want it to be by doing some careful research and ordering and eating accordingly. i think musashino is pretty authentic. now i'm not an expert and i've never had sushi in japan, but the quality of their fish is always top notch. the service can be bad, but the food is always excellent. the most outstanding sushi i've ever had was in taipei (pretty close to japan!) at the chrysanthemum room. after eating sashimi there, all i can say is austin is pretty lucky to have musashino.

Edited by yimay (log)
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To be fair, I have not yet been to Uchi. To be equally fair, I am used to the most authentic Sushi available on the West Coat (which is where I learned to eat sushi.) I will need to try Uchi and must exempt it from my comments since I haven't eaten there.

uchi, actually, i find a disappointment. i was told by friends to go back and order off their dinner menu only, which is supposedly outstanding. the sushi is not impressive at all. honestly, musashino has the best sushi in austin. it's a shame you don't think so. i'm interested to know what you consider to be "real sushi." maybe i'm missing out.

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Yimay.

one of my closest friends worked in Tokyo for three years then came back to Los Angeles. He turned me on to a place, now closed, run by a third generation sushi master. First of all, any sushi chef worth anything understands "Omakase". The chef's choice of what is good, presented by him in a specific order, each dish playing off the last and setting you up for the next.

Second, only the very very best fish available is used. If yellowtail isn't good, they won't serve it. It should also vary substantially according to the seasons. If the place ever serves imitation pressed pollack flakes with crab juice added and call it imitation crab, run for the door.

The sushi should have a clean, slightly sea air taste, but never fishy. The tuna should be almost beefy. It should melt in your mouth, unless is sea clam or squid. The sea urchin roe should taste the way deep water ocean smells...

Frankly, I have never had a meal at Musashino that was anything better than ok, and twice I've gone home feeling queasy in the stomach (never a good sign).

"When I lived in Paris, and champagne was relatively cheap, I always enjoyed a half-bottle in the middle of the morning and another half-bottle at six or so in the evening. It did me a tremendous amount of good." - Gerald Hamilton.
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I would recommend the Driskill's tasting menu.

There's a 3 course option that changes, but I'm not sure how often--and a 9 course option. Last time we went, my husband had the lobster 3 course tasting menu (there was an asparagus option, too)---but the waiter let us know that the chef loves a challenge and can create a tasting menu for any ingredient, theme or dietary requirement.

Driskill Grill website

Challah back!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I wanted to report back on my experience. We ended up going to both Aquarelle and Wink.

We didn't order the tasting menu at Aquarelle because it sounded lame - salad, goat chees in puff pastry, salmon, beef, desert. It didn't strike me as very imaginative. Instead we got two appetizers, entrees, and desert:

For appetizers we got seared foie gras with poached pears and blueberries. It was the best dish of the envening for me. The second appetizer was the goat cheese that also appears on the tasting menu. It was ok, nothing special. For the entree my wife got the stripped bass with eggplant caiviar. Once agian, it was ok. The eggplant was a little bitter and the fish wasn't crispy like I expected. I got rabbit rouelle with turnips and fried gnocchi. This dish was very disappointing. The rabbit was very dry, the turnips bitter, and fried gnocchi rather tough. Finally, for desert my wife had Hot Chocolate Souffle Cake, which she really liked because she loves chocolate. I ordered the poached pear in pastry. It was aweful - touch and tasteless. I really wish I had sent it back. The service was obsequitous but generally clueless. Overall, it was very disappointing. I can't believe that they are rated #2 restaurant in Austin.

The trip to Wink was much better. We ordered the 7 course tasting menu. In retrospect, it was a bit too much. A log of their dishes follow the same formula: protein, greens, and mushrooms. However, all the dishes except for beef where really good. I highly recommend the sweetbreads. They had great flavor and nice contrast of textures with crispy outside and soft interior. We had a much better time at Wink, and will probably go back if we get a chance.

I think the state of high end food in Austin is rather depressing. It doesn't come even close to 3-star places in NYC. At least, we have good tex-mex and BBQ.

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thanks for this! i've only had appetizers at aquarelle and never been to wink. i've heard many of the same sentiments you have about aquarelle. after so many disappointing reviews, i think i will conclude that aquarelle=WEAK. but wink i must try! i heard they have chocolate soup!

agreed, no high end food in Austin. I would qualify Fonda San Miguel as having the closest "gourmet" Mexican food. but i don't really mind. i love me some low-end bbq.

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I think the state of high end food in Austin is rather depressing. It doesn't come even close to 3-star places in NYC. At least, we have good tex-mex and BBQ.

And NYC would be very hard pressed to match Austin in terms of really good Tex-Mex or BBQ. So in a way Austin beats NYC in those catagories.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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