Monday, March 9, 2009

Austin Restaurant Week: Driskill Grill

I know that I said I was going to make it a point to try to cover restaurants a little more off the Austin-beaten path, but in celebration of Austin Restaurant Week and the fact that we were so incredibly stoked to be eating a place like this, may I present to you our review of the Driskill Grill.

As you probably already know, the Driskill Grill sits in the lobby of the historic Driskill Hotel in downtown, and is known for its world-class cuisine, posh interior, and prices that match both. Now, admittedly, we were a bit ambivalent about going in. Obviously we were excited to eat at the Driskill, especially at a fraction of the normal cost, but our last foray into uber-fine dining like this left us with a sour taste. Specifically, we celebrated our 1 year anniversary at Da Marco in Houston, only to receive the worst service I've ever experienced. We were left unwaited for 20 minute stretches at a time, and the waiter even abandoned us in the middle of taking my order to go serve a different table. (Psst - the food isn't even that great!)

We were very happy to see that this was not the case at the Driskill Grill. The food was excellent and both our server and our sommelier could not have been more attentive.

Just to clarify, Han and I are by no means the type of people to normally give two hoots about the level of service of the sommelier. We just think that for that kind of money you should be getting the best dining experience imaginable!

In fact, another difference between the Driskill and Da Marco that we really appreciated was the atmosphere. The Driskill still had everything you'd come to expect -- white table cloths, men dressed in jackets, candlelight -- but the people there were actually lively and having an enjoyable time.

The tasting menu for Restaurant Week included three courses plus a dessert, all for $35. It did not disappoint. In situations like this, we tend to try to "split up" the menu and order as many different things as possible, so we can get a taste of everything, but on that night, our individual greed won out.

For the first course, we both opted for the lobster bisque over the salad (because seriously? a salad? not tonight), although it may have been the evening's only off-note. The presentation was impressive: the waiter brought out big bowls of crab salad, then poured the bisque in to the bowls from sort of a teapot right at the table. But the bisque itself was bit underwhelmed and underseasoned.

For the second course, we diverged. I ordered the beef carpaccio (raw beef, very thinly sliced) which I was very interested to try. I can't even begin to describe the taste. It was very flavorful but the paper-thin slices seemed to disappear immediately in my mouth. It was definitely good, but I will feely admit I was out-Whataburger'd by the Roasted Bandera Quail that Han ordered. The meat was smoky and tender and was served on some of the most delicious mashed potatoes I've ever had.

The third course ended up being the filet mignon for both of us. This was based on the heavy recommendation by our waiter, followed by a subsequent quarrell over who would get to order the filet and who would order something else. Upon first bite, it was pretty clear we made the right decision. I'm sure the other entrees on the menu were more than delicious, but the sight, smell, and taste of the filet surely would have sparked an uncontrollable rage and jealousy in the losing party.

The meal ended with a Chocolate Rasberry Gateau, which I'm pretty sure is French for "Pure Sin sent straight from the Devil himself."

All in all, I think it's safe to say we are big fans of both the Driskill Grill and Austin Restaurant Week. Although even at a fraction of the normal cost, they are still friendly to neither the wallet nor the wedding diet, we cannot wait until next year.


Laura said...

The last time I was at the Driskill I received horrible experience (similar to what it sounds you got at your 1 year anniversary in Houston). I'm glad this was not the case this time! Also, if you want to eat at the Driskill but restaurant week is nowhere near, they offer a decently priced brunch.

It was good to meet you too as well! Hope to see you at more blogger events. YUM!

Laura said...

oops, i meant to say service, not experience. When will I ever learn to preview before posting?