My inlaws sent us a cash card for the holidays and insisted that we use it on a great meal. (Twist my arm!) After doing some research on Chowhound, I think we are deciding between Hudson's, Driskill, and Aquarelle. I know all of these places are good, but since we've been broke ever since we've moved here eight months ago, we want to pick a place that we will love without hesitation! (We recently went out for a fancy date night--for us--at Andiamo, and though my husband's special entree was amazing, my regular menu dish was lackluster, if not utterly lacking and rather awful. It kind of ruined the specialness of the night. So, as I said, we're trying to make the best possible choice here.)
*I don't eat pork or red meat, so I will probably opt for seafood. My husband does eat pork and red meat, so he will probably opt for one of those.
*We'd prefer intimate, quiet, and romantic to loud/crowded/hip. However, since we are in our early 30s, it would be nice if it didn't have a clubby, 50+ feel to it.
*A good wine list would be great, though because our funds are limited, it would be nice if there was a reasonable bottle option (around $40). If this is impossible, we can make do and have two glasses each.
*I think for this meal I'd prefer inventiveness over the "local ingredients" trend, if I have to make a choice. (Ideally, I'd like both.)
*Superior service. I don't want to be hurried through my one nice meal this year (!), and concurrently, I don't want to be ignored because there are other large parties who will spend more money. I also want a waitstaff that knows the menu very well and can recommend the best dishes and wine pairings, if possible.
*We are both off from regular work for the next few weeks, so we can go on a weeknight and avoid possible crowds. (Though if there is a special weekend menu, I'd like to know, and maybe we could get Friday reservations for some week in the future.)
Any recommendations, opinions, reviews would be really helpful. Though it seems a lot of 'Hounds recommend the Driskill, I haven't been able to find that many reviews of actual meals there. Right now, that's my top choice, but Aquarelle is running a close second. Everyone seems to believe that Hudson's is one of--if not *the*--best restaurant in the Austin area, but again, I haven't read many reviews here about the actual dining experiences. Am I just missing them?
And of course, if you would recommend another restaurant that I've overlooked here, please post about it! I know I've picked fine dining choices, but again that's because we really want an ultimate experience. However, if there are slightly less formal but still high quality restaurants that you think beat these places out in terms of value, I'd of course love to know.