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Second Chances

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Second Chances

abidonfood | Apr 23, 2011 01:04 PM

I recently gave a couple of restaurants a second chance, and was surprised by the outcome.

First on the second chance list was Fino. I’d been there several years ago and had one of the worst dining experiences ever. Nothing wrong with the service, only non-creative and poorly executed food for a very creative sticker price. Unfortunately, it was several years ago so I can’t remember what exactly I’d ordered. I’d actually gone back a couple of years ago for the highly touted cocktails, but wasn’t impressed with what I’d ordered either. I started looking at their cocktail menu again recently, and came across some different food menu items: chorizo stuffed medjool dates, grilled octopus, and roasted marrow bones. These are a few of my favorite things, so figured I’d give them a second chance…

the bacon wrapped chorizo stuffed dates were equally proportioned in ingredients. (I’ve had some in the past where the chorizo portion was so large that it ended up being a meatball instead of a stuffed date). This version at Fino also came accompanied with little tidbits of valdeon blue cheese, which complemented the chorizo stuffed dates Very well. Smoky from the bacon, meaty from the chorizo, slightly sweet from the dates and boldness from the valdeon, this was quite a change from the Fino of yesteryear.

Next up was the grilled octopus. Nothing in my mind can beat the octopus dish at El Arbol. And this one certainly didn’t beat it. not bad by any means, but baby octopus is what actually came out, which is not what I was envisioning. It was Perfectly cooked baby octopus though. I tend to like savory grilled octopus dishes, but this one was accompanied by grapefruit segments and fennel. So it ended up being more refreshing than savory I guess. Not bad, but prolly wouldn’t order it again.

Next up was the roasted marrow bones. I love the bone marrow at Parkside and loved the bone marrow at La Condesa (until they took it off the menu), so Fino had some fierce competition for this dish before I sampled theirs. I must say though, that Fino’s version may beat Parkside’s version. Fino’s marrow bone is split in half lengthwise, so it is very easy to just scoop out with a spoon, whereas Parkside’s version is whole so one must exert more effort in extracting the rich goodness from the bones. As far as taste goes, the accompanying herbed radish salad gives Fino the edge, in my opinion, because it added a slight crunch factor. Creamy, rich, crunchy, savory goodness, this dish was definitely a winner…

I also got to sample their cocktail goods… The Brotherly Love cocktail tickled my fancy: gin, st germain elderflower, canton ginger, orange bitters, with an orange peel garnish. Very smooth gin cocktail with the essence of orange blossom, I’d definitely order that again… the Neon Indian Paintbrush, I didn’t much care for though… although with sotol reposado, agave nectar, peychaud’s bitters and mint, the flavors were a bit too muddled for my tastes…

Because I was heartily impressed for the most part, I ordered some more items as well. In any case, I was glad that I gave Fino a second chance. Happy with the outcome, I figured I’d give someone else a second chance too: Foreign & Domestic. Had quite a mediocre meal when it first opened, so thought I’d give them a second chance now that they are more established…

First on the menu was the crispy pork belly… The dish was quite pretty when it came out: pork belly topped with a foam of some sort with a smear of what looked to be a pureed pate and a vividly colored pickled radish and baby greens salad on the side. I suppose in getting it “crispy”, the pork belly ended up being overcooked. So wasn’t very impressed with this dish. Flavors were good though, and particularly loved the accompanying little salad that came with.

Second on the menu was the roasted texas quail. Perfectly roasted quail on a bed of beef short rib marmalade with chickpea fritters and a balsamic reduction. Quite good though the chunks of short rib in the “marmalade” were competing with the quail for protein attention… The chickpea fritters did not add much, but I’d definitely order this dish again…

And then came dessert… almond tart topped with lemon granita and crushed honeycomb. One of the best desserts I’ve ever had. Creamy and slightly sweet almond puree filling with refreshing and slightly tart lemon granita with the dry crunch of honeycomb, this dessert was perfect for me since I don’t carry a sweet tooth. Glaring and hovering, I had to shield my precious dessert from any passersby because I was not ABOUT TO share…

So all-in-all, I got some good results by giving a couple of places a second chance. So now I’m wondering who else has had really good second chance results or which restaurants does anyone have reservations on giving a second chance?

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Foreign & Domestic
306 E 53rd St, Austin, TX 78751

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