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[Austin] Hudson's on the Bend


Kent Wang
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Dale Rice recently reviewed Hudson's on the Bend. I went once a year ago and returned last week.

I had the same Five Species Creature Feature and amuse bouche that Rice describes in his article. The salmon in particular was noteworthy -- a remarkable feat trumping even the kangaroo and alligator -- as it was extremely rich and fatty, like no other cured salmon that I've ever had before.

The dessert selection is rather boring. We ordered the creme brulee trio.

Hudson's is one of my top three favorite restaurants in Austin and one that I often recommend to out of town visitors.

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  • 7 months later...

Last Thursday, my roommate Josh and I dined at Hudson's On the Bend. Situated just outside the city limits, driving there means a view of the lake and surrounding hill country. My father still talks about the first time he came to this restaurant, when it was the only thing around for miles. Not the case anymore, but it is still a lovely setting.

All told, it was a fantastic meal, just as good as I had hoped for. The restaurant itself is very pretty. The entrance is tucked away at the back of the building, and to get to it, you walk through a gorgeous garden full of herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables. Huge old live oak trees weave their branches together forming a canopy, and the staff has strung fairy lights through them, creating a really romantic atmosphere.

The inside has a very homey feel. Several rooms of varying height levels are scattered throughout. It's a large place, but you never realize it until you really look around. We were in a room with about ten other tables at the front of the restaurant, half of which were occupied. We had a nice table. Massive works of art dominate the walls, the decor is what I call "tasteful Texan." It's certainly very identifiable as uniquely Western, with the cedar plank flooring, star of Texas chairs, and large Native-American inspired murals, yet it is not over-the-top, or tacky. It was very comfortable and warm feeling. Beautiful linen table cloths, nice china and silver, and canister candles completed the look.

We began our meal by ordering a bottle of Chilean Chardonnay. Josh picked the wine, as he is a bit more knowledgeable about wine than I am. Unfortunately, I can't remember the maker, and it's not on the online wine menu. I really should have written it down, because it was a delightful wine. Crisp, citrusy, and a bit tart, it had a complexity that really rang out on the tongue. It was also a very good value.

Our meal began with amuse bouche of alligator and andoullie sausage fritters on a bed of chipotle tartar sauce. This was similar to a hush puppie, only much better. It was crunchy and spicy and did precisely what amuse bouche is supposed to do - whet your appetite for what is yet to come. I doubly lucked out because Josh keeps Kosher (with the exception of an annual Chinese New Year blow out party) and sausage and aligator are about as far from Pareve as you can get. So I got to eat both of them! Yay! They were delicious. You will also notice that Josh's Kosher status informed the rest of our meal, so that we could share.

For appetizer we had the Wild Mushroom Artichoke Leek and Goat Cheese Tart on a Masa Crust with Champagne Beet Sauce. This was good. I will not say it was fabulous or mind-blowing, because it wasn't. It was perfectly servicable, but the goat cheese overpowered the flavor of the mushroom. The fried leeks on top of the tart weren't as crunchy as I would have liked, and I felt that sauce lacked depth. I did enjoy the masa crust. So many times, masa is way too thick or chewy or dry, and this was none of those things. It was crisp and had a nice earthy flavor that melded well with the goat cheese. I would really like to experiment on my own using masa as a base for things.

For main course, I chose the Red and White Tuna. This was sushi grade Ahi and Hawaiian Wahu on a smoking cedar plank with a coconut rice cake and seaweed slaw. The presentation on this dish was absolutely beautiful. I really wish we hadn't forgotten the camera so that you could see it. The mound of slaw led into the towering rice cake which formed the base from which the cedar plank jutted out, displaying the fish. My tuna was cooked a perfect rare, and the chef had alternated the red Ahi with the white Wahu, almost like a flag. A strip of ancho chili sauce ran down the middle. The cedar plank gave off a very fragrant aroma, and subtly, but interestingly flavored the fish. That coconut rice cake was a thing of beauty to be savored. It was flash fried and crispy crunchy on the outside, smooth and creamy on the inside, just ever so slightly sweet, and divine. The seaweed slaw was also interesting - seaweed combined with Napa Cabbage made a lovely briny and sour complement to the fish and sweet rice. The whole composition of this dish was excellent. Spicy, savory, sweet, salty, and sour - the differing flavors played with each other, at once complimenting and challenging. This dish was one of those rare things that is fun to eat and never gets boring. Every bite was a new experience. I could have eaten the entire thing, but halfway through we switched plates so that we could each fully experience both dishes.

And I am glad that we did. Josh's entree, Courtney's Hot and Crunchy Ruby Trout came on a bed of Mango Habanero Aioli, and was lightly splashed with Ancho sauce. This was not the same ancho sauce I had on my fish - mine was pungent and thick, a tiny bit going a very long way, while this ancho sauce was light and airy, dancing around in the mouth and lending just a hint of spicyness. It was served with roasted vegetables (forgettable) and a goat cheese cake (delectable). The fish had a wonderful crunchiness while at the same time achieving a perfect doneness. I have often found with fish as delicate as trout a crispy crust often causes an over-done fish, but not so in this case. The fish was tender and juicy, the sweet/spicy aioli and the ancho sauce did not overpower. The goat cheese made a nice complement, but again, the vegetables were bland and forgettable. But who really cares about vegetables when you're eating a meal like this, right? I enjoyed this dish just as much as the tuna. It was yet another exciting blend of flavors that never got old.

Our dinner dishes cleared by the oh-so-beautiful young bus boy (seriously, this kid was a sight to behold - if only I could be 20 again!) it was time to move on to dessert. And oh, did we ever move on to dessert. Fairly full from the meal, we had to split, but the choice was obvious as soon as we saw the menu: Rosemary Olive Oil Cake Layered with Lemon Curd and Butter Cream Icing on a Prickly Pear Sauce. Oh heavenly, food of angels and gods was this cake. So moist, the rosemary and olive oil flavors coming through on a cloud, suspended by sharp, tart lemon curd and smooth creamy butter cream icing. This was the cake of my dreams. Not too sweet, just right. The perfect ending to a close-to-perfect meal. I will dream about this cake, I will be talking about it for years.

We finished the last drops of our wine, settled the bill, and made our way out to the car. By now, the sky was deep purple, almost black, cicadas sang in the trees above us, candle light lit the way back to the car, all was right with the world. If you get a chance, go to Hudson's. You really won't be sorry.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Thanks, Blanche! Hudson's is a great special occasion place. It was the best meal I have had in Austin to date.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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Those kosher restrictions really made you miss out on what Hudson's is known for: the wild game. But that the more conventional dishes were also done so well really speaks volumes about their menu.

That cake sounds intriguing, very unusual. I'm impressed that it turned out well.

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Those kosher restrictions really made you miss out on what Hudson's is known for: the wild game.

Eh, I didn't feel like I missed out on anything. Honestly, the tuna dish caught my eye pretty early during my menu persual, and most of the game dishes seemed very, very heavy, which I wasn't entirely in the mood for. Besides, those fish dishes were really, really good!

Besides, it seemed like lots of people go there for steak as well as wild game, as there were no less than three steak offerings on the menu, and at almost every table I saw, at least one person was eating a steak. (Yes, they looked really good.) There was also a lot more shellfish on the menu than I would have imagined, which shocked me a little bit. I wonder if Hudson's is moving away a bit from the central Texas game concept?

That said, when I get to go back I really want to try their rattle snake cake appetizer, which I would have ordered had it not been for the kosher restrictions.

-Sounds awfully rich!

-It is! That's why I serve it with ice cream to cut the sweetness!

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