Restaurants & Bars

dallas, plano, and austin eats (long)

dchow | May 30, 200302:02 AM     2

i originally came to texas for my sister's graduation from ut-austin, and it turned into a total food frenzy. my goodness. here it is, in order:

ABACUS (dallas) -- a belated mother's day gift. i treated her (and myself) to the nine-course tasting menu. that evening (i made out poor waiter write out all the courses):
1. wonton with ahi, cucumber, and daikon sprouts (looks like that tuna tartar picture from the french laundry cookbook)
2. diver scallop with corn mash and diablo sauce (excellent scallop)
3. sole crab crusted with saffron rice and bell pepper broth
4. escolar (fish) with artichoke, herb oil, asparagus, portobello mushrooms, tomatoes
5. pear sorbet
6. pork tenderlion with potato hash, truffle demi-glace (very tender pork, lovely demi-glace)
7. duck with quinoa and carrot sauce (perfectly crisp skin, perfect overall).
8. cheese tasting from the cowgirl creamery (very good cheese -- from california)
9. white chocolate strawberry cheesecake (couldn't really taste the white chocolate).
mom's favorites: 1, 6
my favorites: 2, 7, 8 (i really, really like the cheese -- i really thought they (two triple creams and semi-firm cream) were french . . .).

pearl milk tea from the JOY LUCK BBQ (plano) on coit and park. didn't get to shop in the adjacent grocery store (old brookshire's). tea was fine.

EASTSIDE CAFE (austin). a favorite of my sister's because of the baked brie and apple chutney. my dad and sister's friend fought for the last bite. i had a grilled tuna sandwich, which i had ordered medium rare, but i think it came out medium well. it was huge but nothing great. dad devoured his sesame-coated catfish, however. tasty sides.

KERBEY LANE (austin). 2am after bopping around with the new college grads (on 6th street, of course), and hunger strikes. got the apple whole wheat pancakes, full stack (BIG mistake -- too much food!), and they were undercooked in the middle. tasted tangy for some reason. the undercookedness went away as i reheated them for breakfast the next morning.

UPPER CRUST BAKERY (austin). smorgasbord of baked goods: apple cinnamon muffin, oatmeal muffin, plain croissant, strawberry cream cheese croissant, brioche roll, cinnamon roll. best: cinnamon roll. worst: plain croissant. the croissant wasn't bad, but it wasn't crisp and flaky. it actually tasted day-old.

FONDA SAN MIGUEL (austin). many thanks to those who urged that we eat here for graduation dinner even though i wanted no typical texan foods. what we ate:
ceviche veracruzano: black trout, lime, tomato, cilantro (very good)
chile con queso: monterey jack cheese + milk (fine)
parrilla nortena: grilled venison (perfect), quail (very good), frog legs (coated in batter and deep fried? weird. and the meat was chewy), sweet breads (i loved this), sausage (this tasted like an eckrich sausage). served with nopalitos (cactus) and guacamole.
borrego: loin lamb chops with potatoes and goat cheese tamale. sister loved the potatoes but thought the lamb was just okay.
shrimp adobado: shrimp with a tangy adobado sauce and a tortilla "cake" of tortillas, onions, and poblanos. nice smoky flavor.
chile relleno: sweet batter surrounding the chile. filled with pork. very tasty. the sweet batter threw me off, though. never really ate chile rellenos before, so maybe this is normal.
crepas de cajeta: the highlight of the evening. two crepes with a creamy caramel sauce and cajeta ice cream. very, very good.
cookie plate: five different-looking cookies, but i suspect that three of them were the same, just frosted differently. my favorite was the cinnamon cookie.
almond flan: cheesecake-looking with a crushed almond-marzipan-like crust and the almond-flavored flan. deliciously eggy and smooth.

THE GINGER MAN (austin). my new favorite bar, and it doesn't hurt that they serve celis white on tap. oh so good. also tried the st arnold lawnmower. it was fine but lost to celis white. sorry.

AMY'S ICE CREAM (austin). chocolate pudding, mexican vanilla, and gingersnap ice creams. lovely flavors but the gingersnap had an extra snap of ginger to it. yeouch! a bargain at about $2.15 after reading about boston chowhounds' expensive ice cream discussion (avg $3.15 for a small scoop).

HOOVER'S COOKING (austin). i had chicken fried steak with butter beans and garlic & cheese grits (loved the gravy with the cfs, felt the grits needed more salt, big fan of butter beans hoover's way). sister had southern fried pork chops with mac & cheese and jalapeno creamed spinach (never had pork chops like this but hope to make it back for more soon). individual pitchers of lemonade (ahh). dessert of banana pudding cheesecake (who'da thought it'd be so good?). best two things: pork chops and butter beans, hands down. waiter was amazed that we finished everything and ordered dessert. also liked the sweet bread (dry cornbread, though).

CITY MARKET (luling). sister and sister's friend thought i was nuts for wanting to drive so far for bbq when we could go to rudy's. waah waah waah. loved the atmosphere and no-fork policy. started off with a little of everything and got seconds of the ribs and brisket (found the links to be too salty). had the pintos, potato salad, and slice of cheese. picked up watermelon thumping bumper sticker on the way out. will try black's and smitty's if in the 'hood again.

WINK (austin). treated my sister to the seven-course tasting menu:
seared foie gras on toasted brioche with strawberry-sauternes reduction (we loved this)
fennel-dusted opah with asparagus, oyster mushrooms, and hollandaise
baby romaine with poached quail egg, lardons, and tiny tomato-champagne vinaigrette (could have sworn this tasted like a red beet vinaigrette, didn't see the quail egg; very fresh, crisp red romaine)
carpaccio of kobe beef (sister can't stop talking about this, how it melted in her mouth)
crisp duck breast on lentils with bacon, artichokes, and red wine demi-glace (lentils seemed way under-done, duck was salty, skin not so crisp).
lamb t-bone on parmesan polenta and swiss chard and blackberry-port reduction (fine, loved the polenta).
cheeseplate (triple cream brie, p'tit basque, and cornish blue) and lemon curd dessert (sister's choice). i loved the cheeses and their accompaniments (cherries, walnuts, golden delicious slices). lemon curd was very good, too. good lemon curd is hard to fine.

THE GINGER MAN (austin). again. one last celis white.

BRAUM'S (plano). i always love their limeade. extremely refreshing with the fresh lime juice, soda water, and syrup. mmm. i also like their frozen yogurt. very creamy and smooth.

*some taqueria near bachman lake* mom's friend brought us tacos. small corn tortillas filled with shredded meat (pork? beef), served with cilantro-white onions, salsas (red and green), and lemon juice. hot, fresh, and delicious.

HENRY'S HOMEMADE ICE CREAM (plano). i always think about their black raspberry ice cream. and girl scout mint. and cinnamon. their kiddie cone is the size of the $3.15 scoop in boston for only $1.95 (i know, it's texas, but still). when i get married, i want henry's ice cream at the reception!

LA ME (dallas). little vietnamese cafe/market. had banh mi. cheap but the bread was not so fresh. mom and i tried the rolled ham and liver sausage and rolled pork and liver sausage varieties with a pearl avocado shake (very good). coolest thing i had, though, was dessert: black-eyed peas with sweet rice in coconut cream. weird concept but it all tasted great. things taste better when bound with coconut milk! the grocery store in the shopping center, hong kong market place, sells purple yam ice cream. did get tofu rolls and stuffed tofu cakes from the fresh tofu shop (in the same shopping center).

and that's it. i think that's enough! we sisters then drove to chicago and then boston for more adventurous eating (like the best hot dogs, eyeball tacos, and a 22-course tasting menu!).

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