Saturday night we decided on Jean Luc's Bistro here in Austin for a special occasion, having read praise from every critic in Austin. I could recap everything we had - gnocchi with truffle sauce, beet salad, monkfish, lamb shank and the "warm and gooey chocolate" for dessert - but would rather focus on just two things. First, at $92, including an excellent bottle of Reserve St Martin Selection Rouge, Languedoc-Rousillon 2001, we felt we got very fair value for the money spent and second, the lamb shank ranks up there with "the best" entrees I've ever experienced.
The lamb shank with couscous ($22) we were told was braised for six hours and combined "fall off the bone" tenderness with a flavor so intense that the two little slivers I took home added to a salad the next day were dynamite. Interestingly in this day of gigantic serving dishes, the lamb shank was served on a small, rectangular plate that accentuated its size. It was accompanied by a small copper bowl of Israeli couscous made with dates and almonds and finished with cilantro, topped with fried, shaved carrots accented with allspice. Again I brought a few tablespoons home and added them to the same salad and was in heaven.
The only glitch in the evening was despite our early reservations and arriving to a near empty house, the hostess suggested a two top immediately adjacent to the kitchen, hardly conducive to an enjoyable evening. Fortunately my partner, when asked said "no, this table wouldn't do" and we were reseated. On the other hand the wait staff and bar manager were superb.
All in all, quite a happy experience.