Monday, October 27, 2008

Casa Colombia

Hey folks. Been a while, but we're back with a pretty good one. In addition to good cheap sushi, another thing that Han and I have really been missing here is really good authentic Latin American food like they have in Houston.

Casa Columbiana came on recommendation from Kiara, one of Han's classmates. According to her, it's basically a throwback to the original Dona Emilia's, a local favorite. Legend has it that Dona Emilia's rose to popularity in its original East Austin location before corporate sponsors partnered with Emilia to move the restaurant to the upscale location downtown. As time went by, Emilia either tired of the upscale restaurant lifestyle or clashed with the new owners, and broke off their business relationship. The new owners kept the name and Emilia re-opened Casa Columbiana in the original location.

The food itself is as good as you would imagine it. For appetizers we ordered the aborrejado (fried plantain with mozzarella) and the fried yucca. The fried yucca is an absolute must-have. In fact, it's pretty much worth making the trip just for that. The lunch specials are moderately priced, and are smaller-sized portions of their top-selling dishes. The Pabellon (or has Han calls, "Pantalones") is a delicious Venezuelan combo of shredded pork, black beans, white rice, and plantains [pictured left]. Han ordered the equally delicious daily special, the Pollo Guisado: a chicken quarter stewed and covered in yellow sauce [pictured right].

Also worth trying are the selection of fresh squeezed tropical juices that the restaurant offers. The lulo and the guanabana were both pretty good.

All-in-all this restaurant is a pretty complete package. Award-winning food, quaint but clean atmosphere, kind service, and great prices. A definite high recommendation.

Casa Colombia
1614 E 7th St

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Korea Garden: The Eternal Quest for Good Austin Sushi

Before I go any further...

ACL Music Winners: Beck, Manu Chao, CSS, Gogol Bordello, Vampire Weekend
ACL Food Winners: Hudson's cones (of course), anything from Salt Lick (of course), nICE CONEz ice cream-stuffed sno cones, P. Terry's veggie burger (courtesy of Erika, our resident veggie burger connoisseur)

Great time as always. Looking forward to next year. Now onto business.

One of our biggest complaints since moving to Austin is that we really miss Houston's abundance of cheap quality sushi. You know, places like Oishii and Hokkaido. We just haven't been able to find any place like that here in Austin.

Our most notable sushi experience came during 4th of July weekend, when we met up with Pam and CJ and went to Kenichi on 5th St. We ended up dropping over $100 there and we still had to go to Best Wurst afterward because we were still hungry. Han ordered a sashimi plate and it was literally six slivers of fish drizzled with lemon saffron. Don't get me wrong, the piece I tried was delicious, but most of the money we paid definitely went toward the pretense.

We had been to Korea Garden before for their Korean food, but post-ACL we were looking something relatively healthy like sushi to aid in our detox process. We got a salmon roll and a spicy scallop roll, and we ended up getting a few Korean dishes as well, because I couldn't resist.

Probably the best part about this restaurant is the service. The food comes out quick and the waitstaff is very courteous and responsive and also hilariously FOB-by. If you ask for a refill of your water, you may be greeted with a huge smile and a "Sure!! Why not?"

The sushi itself was passable but did the job. Basically neither roll was as fresh as I would have liked, but it was still very good sushi. If only the price of the sushi was reasonable, it would have been a home run. But $6-7 per roll and $3-4 per nigiri (!!!) makes this sushi a little less easy to swallow.

The Korean food on the other hand is very delicious and worth the money. The bibimbop is pretty amazing, although the jury is still out on whether it's worth it to pay the extra money to have it served in a stone pot. The japchae is probably among the best I've ever had, mixing in both bugolgi beef and soy medallions into the sticky noodles. Han got the the sashimi bibimbop (which, to me, was more chirashi than bibimbop) which was really good as well.

Overall the restaurant is definitely worth it. We're still looking for that little niche sushi hole-in-the-wall to call our own, but for now we will take the occasional salmon roll from here alongside our bugolgi and galbi bbq plates.

Korea Garden
6519 N. Lamar

P.S. If anyone wants to know our best bet for sushi so far, it's to make it yourself using fish from D.K.'s Sushi Mart at the corner of Koenig and Lamar.