RSS

Tag Archives: Austin

Review: East Side Kings (Austin)

East Side Kings Food Truck

East Side Kings Food Truck

So I learned the hard way that most food trucks in Austin are dark on Mondays. Thankfully, East Side King’s trucks still operate on Mondays so the food conquest wasn’t a failure. East Side King has three locations, but we settled on visiting the East Side Kings at Liberty Bar.

The space is located in a pretty quiet area of Austin, but it was still pretty busy for a Monday night. After looking at the menu, I ordered Poor Qui’s Buns, Thai Chicken Karaage and Derek’s Favorite Chicken Buns.

Something I love about food truck (and East Side King is no exception) is the fact that things are cooked to order. East Side King incorporates a lot of herbs into the dishes and all were fresh and crisp.

Poor Qui's Bun

Poor Qui's Bun

The first thing I tried were the Poor Qui’s Buns — roasted pork belly in steamed buns, Hoisin sauce, cucumber kimchi and green onion. Delicious. The pork belly was crackly and blended perfectly with the crunch and acidity of the cucumber kimchi. The bun was light and fluffy and didn’t distract from the overall taste of all the elements.

Next I sampled the Thai Chicken Karaage — deep fried chicken thigh with sweet and spicy sauce, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeno. I’m willing to go on record and state that thighs are the most underrated cut of chicken. They have so much flavor and East Side King really brought out the flavor with the mix of herbs, jalapeno and the sauce. It was crispy, hot, cool and refreshing. The perfect dish for a warm night.

Thai Chicken Karaage

Thai Chicken Karaage

This dish also paired really well with my Shiner Bock. So don’t forget about the right beer.

Finally, I tried the Derek’s Favorite Chicken Buns. Once again, the chicken thigh pieces were crisped to perfect. This bun was composed of deep-fried chicken thigh, Thai flavored spicy mayo, fresh basil, cilantro, mint, onion and jalapeno. This turned out to be my favorite dish. The pillowy soft bun mixed with the herbs and crispy chicken provided a very textured, yet simple dish.

I’m a big fan of Asian cuisine, and East Side King can hold it’s own as a serious Asian dining experience — albeit outside of the standard brick and mortar. It’s no wonder Anthony Bourdain stopped by on his most recent visit to Austin.

Derek's Favorite Chicken Buns

Derek's Favorite Chicken Buns

The brains behind East Side King consist of former chefs from Uchi, one of Austin’s top Asian restaurants. They’re really onto something here as they’re now up to three truck — each with a unique menu. They’re also smart to open on Monday nights, they pretty much have a Monday night monopoly.

I’ll have to wait to continue my food truck conquests on my next visit to Austin. Just not on a Monday.

East Side King trucks operate outside of Liberty Bar, The Grackle and Shangri-La in Austin. Hours vary so visit the East Side King site for more info.

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Eatin'

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Lambert’s (Austin)

Crispy Wild Boar Ribs

Crispy Wild Boar Ribs

There was no way in hell I was going to take a trip to Texas and not leave without having barbecue. Brisket is one of my favorite cuts of beef so my tastebuds were set on having some great brisket. Based on my Austin friend’s recommendation, we headed to Lambert’s in downtown Austin so I could cure my barbecue/brisket craving.

After ordering drinks, we started with a charcuterie plate (not pictured because I forgot to take a pic until we were nearly finished devouring it) that came with two local cheeses and two from elsewhere as well as some nice meats. All of the cheese and meat was overshadowed by the foie gras pot de creme. Wow! That little pot was full of flavor and I really didn’t want to share it. I would have liked one of those as an entree.

A close second on the charcuterie plate was the local honeycomb. The honey was great and paired well with every meat and ever cheese we sampled. But did I mention the foie gras pot de creme? I did? Okay, moving on.

Natural Beef Brisket

Natural Beef Brisket

Not surprisingly, I ordered the Natural Beef Brisket in a coffee and brown sugar rub with pickled esabeche. The brisket was good, especially the fattier pieces. However, I really didn’t get much of the coffee and brown sugar effect. What made the brisket great was Lambert’s house barbecue sauce.

I should point out that I’m much more of Texas barbecue sauce fan than I am for a Memphis (vinegar-based) sauce. I enjoy the thick sauciness of Texas sauces. That said, Lambert’s was not as thick as some sauces I’ve had and it definitely had a spicy heat component that’s absent from most Texas sauces. A+ on the sauce.

I also tried the Crispy Wild Boar Ribs and the Natural Pulled Pork. The ribs were tasty thanks to the sauce, but in my opinion, weren’t crispy. The pulled pork was very well done and had a different sauce than the house sauce that was equally delicious.

Now for the sides. I’m convinced the art of a good barbecue should be evenly divided 50-50 between meats and sides. Well, Lambert’s has some of the best barbecue sides I’ve ever had.

We ordered four for the table: Brussels Sprouts in Brown Butter with Bacon, Baked Mac and 3 Cheeses, Smoked Bacon Braised Collard Greens and Green Chili Cheese Grits.

I tried the grits first. I’m very very very picky about grits. If the base is water, forget it. Thankfully, Lambert’s used some form of dairy with a load of cheese. All of that was balanced very well by the heat from the green chilis. I would have this grits again and again. I may try and replicate the recipe.

Natural Pulled Pork

Natural Pulled Pork

The Brussels Sprouts were also a hit thanks to the bacon and brown butter of course. The Collard Greens didn’t quite live up to the Brussels Sprouts, but were still tasty.

And I still haven’t forgotten about the Mac and 3 Cheese. It was bubbly, crispy on the top and creamy on the inside. A total cheesy success all the way around. The pasta wasn’t too firm and wasn’t too chewy. I was ready to lick the bowl, but I’m afraid I would have come to blows with the rest of the table.

We ended the night with Lambert’s Bread Pudding that ranks as one of the top three I’ve ever had. Which is saying a lot given the number of bread puddings I’ve had while living in New Orleans (I would rank only Mr. B’s and Boucherie’s bread puddings higher).

While Lambert’s is a refined barbecue experience, the place can totally hold its own with some of the best barbecue joints in Texas. The meats were solid, the sides were phenomenal and the service was exemplary. They also have a great happy hour on Mondays where all appetizers are half off. If I lived in Austin, I would make this my Monday night regular place to eat.

Lambert’s is located at 401 West 2nd Street in downtown Austin. Lambert’s is open for lunch daily from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dinner is available Sun. through Wed. from 5 to 10 p.m. and on Fri. and Sat. from 5 to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Eatin'

 

Tags: , , , , ,

Review: Gourdough’s (Austin)

Gourdough's Food Trailer

Gourdough's Food Trailer

I’m not gonna lie, I was looking forward to the trip to Gourdough’s probably more than any other place we were planning on eating. In fact, Miguel and I spent roughly an hour during a Saints game a couple weeks ago perusing the website looking at all the pictures of Gourdogh’s menu. I highly recommend checking out their website, it’s well done and give you an accurate idea of what you’re in for.

The food truck/trailer scene in Austin is a truly unique culinary endeavor and Gourdough’s is one of the best ones out there in my opinion. Since we were a party of three (myself, Miguel and our gracious host Ashley), we decided to get four donuts to split. Word to the wise: these things are huge and are definitely dessert donuts, not breakfast. We didn’t eat every bite, but we wanted to sample as much as we possible. We decided to order the Mama’s Cake, Sara’s Joy, Funky Monkey and Miss Shortcake donuts.

Funky Monkey

Funky Monkey

I made the mistake of trying the Funky Monkey first. I say it was a mistake because it was so full of flavor, sweetness and goodness that I knew it would be hard for the other three to measure up. Funky Monkey is a donut topped with cream cheese icing, caramelized bananas and brown sugar. It was rich and decadent, but it exceeded my expectations somehow.

On a side note, I take issue with the name. This is definitely a Bananas Foster type donut. I was under the impression that Funky Monkey was banana and chocolate. Either way, I’m not complaining. They could call it dirt donut and I would still recommend it.

Sara's Joy

Sara's Joy

Next up, I sampled the Sara’s Joy donut. As insane as this may sound, this was the richest donut of the night. The chocolate and coconut mixed perfectly, but I think the amount of fudge and coconut topping exponentially increased the richness. That said, it was still an amazing donut. I think it would benefit from some almonds to give it a little more crunch.

Miss Shortcake

Miss Shortcake

Following Sara’s Joy, I tried Miss Shortcake, the donut with cream cheese icing and fresh strawberries. By this point, I realized Gourdough’s is just as focused on the quality of the donuts as they are with the quality of the toppings. The cream cheese icing is top notch and better than some of the icings I’ve had on cupcakes and other desserts. The strawberries were very fresh and had the perfect sweet to sour ratio. It was a nice acidity balance to the sweetness of the icing and donut.

Last up was Mama’s Cake, a yellow cake batter filled donut with fudge icing and cake batter topping. This is life in the South in a donut. It was definitely reminiscent of growing up on yellow cake.

Side story, as a kid, I once pigged out on yellow cake so badly that I made myself sick. Thankfully, that didn’t happen on my visit to Gourdough’s.

Mama's Cake

Mama's Cake

All in all, the trip to Gourdough’s was no letdown, in fact, it exceeded my wildest dreams. Having such a high-quality website for a food products usually means the bar is pretty high. But Gourdough’s definitely has the ability to meet and zoom past that bar.

The donuts are definitely big and fat, but more importantly, the donuts are cooked to order, delicious and crispy. You may experience a little bit of a wait while waiting for your donut(s), but I can assure you it’s worth the wait (and weight for that matter).

Gourdough’s is located at 1219 S. Lamar Blvd. and is open daily. Hours vary (including late night) so visit the website for details.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 18, 2011 in Eatin'

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review: Wink (Austin)

Seared Dayboat Scallops

Seared Dayboat Scallops

Wink is an Austin restaurant that prides itself on using the freshest ingredients possible. When it comes to food, we all know fresh is best, but in today’s world of Sysco suppliers, freshness often doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Thankfully, Wink succeeds in its main focus. Every plate we had was fresh and it’s no wonder Wink lists the farms and local produce suppliers it maintains a relationship with.

We arrived a few minutes earlier for our reservation so it was no surprise our table wasn’t quite ready due to Wink’s intimate size. So we were forwarded over to Wink’s wine bar next door. There, we settled on a bottle of tempranillo we thoroughly enjoyed. While we waited, we perused the menu and decided to do the five-course tasting me.

Side note: surprisingly, I’m a big fan of tasting menu. It goes against my control freak nature, but for some reason, I 100% trust chefs when it comes to putting together a tasting menu.

First course was a Coriander-scented Himachi Sashimi in Chilled Citrus Soy Broth with Radishes and Pea Shoots. While it was pleasant, it wasn’t the best I’ve ever had. The broth didn’t really add much to the himachi so it was a little more subtle than I expected. And while I like subtle, this was too subtle. The citrus didn’t pop and the radishes conflicted with the himachi in my opinion.

Second course was a Seared Dayboat Scallop with Spaghetti Squash, Oyster Mushrooms, Basil and Orange Emulsion. This turned out to be my favorite course of the night. The scallop was seared to perfection, the spaghetti squash tasted fresh and had a nice crunch to it, the oyster mushrooms were seasoned just right and the citrus element of the orange emulsion popped — unlike the himachi dish. Oddly enough, the orange emulsion reminded me of the icing that comes with Pilsbury’s Orange Danish Rolls. I mean that as a compliment, it was delicious when mixed with the saltiness of the other elements.

Duck Breast

Duck Breast

Next up was Duck Breast with Sweet Potato, Rainbow Chard, Maiitakes and Brown Fig. We ordered the duck medium rare (that’s how I usually roll) and it came out cooked perfectly. It had just enough juice to it and basically melted when chewed. The chard and the sweet potato added a nice sweet, earthy taste to the richness of the duck. The fig tasted good, but was a little lost among the other elements.

Grilled N.Y. Strip with Creminis, Okra, Cippolini and Charred Eggplant Puree was the next course. Once again, we ordered the meat medium rare and once again, it had just enough sear and just enough juice. The creminis and cippolini were amazing when eaten with the strip as was the charred eggplant puree — perfectly smoky and earthy. Now for the okra, I don’t like okra and haven’t eaten it since I was about seven years old. I toughened up and tried it again though and Wink may have convinced me to reevaluate my loathing of okra. It was salty, smoky and had a nice crunch to it.

For dessert, we split a cheese plate of some great Texas cheese and a dessert sampler. The dessert sample had three components: A Raspberry Meringue filled with Lemon Curd, Creme Brulee and El Rey Chocolate Cake.

Grilled NY Strip

Grilled NY Strip

The Raspberry Meringue was hands down my favorite. The meringue had the perfect crunch to it and the lemon curd was more sour than sweet which was my favorite aspect.

The creme brulee was bruleed wonderfully and it was a solid creme brulee. For some reason, creme brulee isn’t a dessert I get overly excited about, but there was nothing wrong with this one.

The El Rey Chocolate Cake was super decadent. El Rey chocolate is from Venezuela and it was easy to realize the cocoa content was quite high. I’m not the biggest chocolate fan, so Miguel was on his own for this one and based on his feedback, it was a great chocolate cake.

Overall, Wink has some creative dishes that really benefit from the freshness philosophy. Wink also takes wine very seriously which is something most fine diners can appreciate. The place is small so it is very intimate. Reservations are highly recommended, but don’t necessarily expect them to seat you promptly. We had a reservation for 8 p.m., but didn’t get seated until 8:30 p.m. Luckily, the wine bar is fantastic and makes you forget you’re waiting.

Wink is also a little hard to find as it’s nestled in a an area off the main drag. It’s definitely worth the trip. Wink practices what it preaches when it comes to the main philosophy: fresh, fresh, fresh.

Wink is located at 1014 N. Lamar Blvd. and is open Mon.-Sat. from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 17, 2011 in Eatin'

 

Tags: , , , , , ,