Low Brow – High Brow: Nelson and Rachel eat out in Austin
Papalote – quick and awesome lunch
Ahh… tacos… down to earth, authentic, central Mexican food. This is not your typical Tex-Mex or border food. Papalotes serves interior Mexican style casual food that is well balanced, tasty and light on the wallet. I used get the lunch special all the time – 2 tacos, rice and beans and ice tea. The taco fillings are unique and delicious – I love the “rajas y hongos” (peppers and mushrooms – autocorrect wanted to make that “rajas y bongos” 🙂 ) and the “Guajolote En Mole” (turkey in mole sauce). This year we started getting their more classic interior dishes – the Tlacoyos, Huaraches, and Sopes – all different varieties of corn dishes topped with your choice of taco filling or their homemade chili sauce. I’ve never seen these dishes another restaurant in Austin. It’s definitely worth a trip to Papalote to try them. Check out the menu here.
Botticelli’s – date night dinner
Where does a chef go to eat? We have our favs, but we like to try new places. Botticelli’s has been around for a few years now, and some friends recommended it. We went for happy hour and got a three appetizers (two from the happy hour menu and one from the regular menu) and a salad. I started the meal with a tasty aperitif called Aperol Fizz made with Aperol, which I’ve never had before. Super yummy – slightly bitter, not too sweet – a great compliment to a meal. I sampled the house white and red wines before going with the aperitif, but they were both pretty mediocre and not even worth the low happy hour price imho.
We started our meal off with the Mare Capesante (Seared porcini dusted sea scallops over a brown butter and roasted garlic puree with a roasted beet, and almond salad topped with a pan sauce). The description sounded great, and our waiter said it was one of the best things on the menu. It was an awesome dish – well balanced, not too salty or under salted. The scallops were done perfectly. Yum – really excellent – as good a dish as any I have had in Austin.
Mare Capesante Appetizer
After the scallops we had the Shrimp and Polenta and the Clams in White Wine, Brown Butter and Capers, both from the happy hour menu. The shrimp and polenta had the potential to be really good, but it was way, way over salted. Maybe we should have sent it back – it could have been an accident – but it was totally unbalanced. The clams were tasty. Not nearly as good as the scallops, but a good happy hour dish for sure. I asked for a side of bread to mop up the tasty sauce that was leftover. The bread was very good, but over salted.
We finished off the meal with the Insalata Foresta – a Butter lettuce and arugula salad “dressed in a truffled vinaigrette with roasted trumpet mushrooms, seasonal fruit, and hazelnuts.” The salad could have been much better. The trumpet mushrooms disappeared under the vinaigrette, which was a bit too sharp and just tasted vinaigry without any of the “truffled” essence coming through.
Overall we enjoyed Botticelli’s. The scallop dish was wonderful, but we weren’t blown away by the rest. Mostly I think that the use of way too much salt left us feeling neutral about our meal. The proper use of salt is so critical to good food. It is one of the trickiest ingredients to balance properly, and so many restaurants end up over salting or not salting enough. A few weeks ago I read a great article by David Chang, a successful chef who wrote in Wired about his Unified Theory of Deliciousness, which is all about salt. Anyway, I’d be interested in trying one of the main courses at Botticelli’s, but neither of us feel compelled to return soon. The outdoor seating in back is lovely, and the indoor area is romantic and cute. It reminded me a lot of restaurants in Italy – small, rich and cozy. Check out Botticelli’s menu here – try out the food and let us know what you think.
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