Friday, December 24, 2010

IM Thai Cuisine

IM Thai Cuisine is a new Thai restaurant that has won me over with its delicious offerings and great service.  What is super great about this place is that you can taste the freshness of the ingredients. 

The Thai tea here is not too sweet, which is perfect.  I want my Thai tea to taste like tea and not some syrupy mess.

Thai Tea

We ordered the N3 Pad Kee Mao, which is stir-fried flat noodles with mushrooms, Thai chili, basil, tomatoes, bell peppers, and (choice of meat) beef.  The Pad Kee Mao is addictive.  The tangyness from the tomatoes gives this noodle dish a sharper flavor.  I used to think that I could never part with my Kua Gai at Thai restaurants, but this might be my new Thai noodle dish obsession.  I have to admit, my former go-to Thai restaurant, Madam Mam's, has gotten really lax with the quality of their meats. I detected some funky smell and taste in the beef several times in my beloved F11 Guay Teaw Kua Gai. The meat in my noodle dish at IM Thai does not have the stink of days/week old meat like at Madam Mam's. So-long Madam Mam, and hello IM Thai!
Pad Kee Mao

I originally wanted to try the C6 Duck Curry, but it wasn't available that day so I ordered the H2 Pla Pad Ped, crispy catfish topped with stir-fried bell peppers, fresh basil, lime leaves in a red curry sauce.  This really was a whole catfish.  The portion was huge!  And I did not complain.  This dish is so amazing that my dining companion and I nearly finished everything in the adorable fish fire pot.  Although the pieces of catfish was simmering in the curry, the fish still retained its fried crispiness.  The curry itself was sweet, savory, creamy, and spicy.  I highly recommend this dish.

Pla Pad Ped

Pla Pad Ped

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Lake Travis and Soleil Media Event

When I received an invitation to Soleil's grand opening party, I decided that this was a perfect excuse to trek out to Lake Travis and enjoy a warm December day.  I spent the entire afternoon walking around the lake and lounging out on the terrace at Oasis to watch the sunset.  Ahhhh....this is how to spend winter break, but alas, this is not how I'll be spending the rest of my winter break.  I'm off to conduct field research for school soon in Beijing, where I'll be stressed and freezing!

Sunset View from Oasis

Sunset View from Oasis

After sunset, I went next door to the grand opening party of Soleil.  I can't believe that it took this long for another restaurant to open around Oasis at Lake Travis!  Soleil is a restaurant with a great view and a Mediterranean-inspired menu. 



The restaurant was served up super fresh oysters and delectable hors d'oeuvres.

Raw Oysters Bar

Salmon with candied fennel, granny smith apple, and yogurt

Jumbo Cocktail Shrimp

Lump Crab with chorizo and potato

Tuna with tomato, and black olive mousse

Unfortunately, the buffet that was set up to showcase the entrees on their regular dinner menu probably did not do the restaurant justice.  The chicken turned dry, the pork tenderloin tough, and the beef tenderloin overcooked.  I can't tell if it's because of the actual cooking or if it's because all meats became dry at buffets.  The only truly delicious entree offered that evening was the pan seared trout with crab meat, which was flavorful and tender.


Seared Tuna with cannellini beans

Smoked Mussel

Soleil Arranged a Buffet Station so Media Guests Could Sample a Little Bit of Everything

Lemon Cheesecake, Tiramisu, Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and feel that Soleil will finally give Lake Travis visitors an alternative to Tex-Mex at Oasis.

Belmont Grand Re-Opening Party

Belmont Grand Re-Opening Party Media/VIP Event 9/2/2010:

Belmontinis - vodka, champagne, and pineapple juice

Crawfish on Toast

Cucumber Caviar Cups

Goat Cheese and Caviar Tart

Hummus and Pita Bread

Belmont Rooftop

Mr. Fabulous and Band

Monday, December 20, 2010

Odd Duck Farm to Trailer and Gourdough's

The cluster of food trailers on S. Lamar is a dangerous place.  It's hard to order just one thing, and the food isn't exactly healthy.  But the food tastes too damn good to exercise self-control for the sake of health.

Odd Duck Farm to Trailer is only open for dinner on Tuesdays - Saturdays.  The menu changes every so often, but you can usually count on there being variations of pork belly slider and quail.  The wait time is rather lengthy, but the food is very well prepared.  I always get whatever pork belly slider is on the menu because it never fails to knock my socks off.

Shredded pork shoulder on toasted baguette with roasted corn and sweet onion

Slider with spiced pork belly, sauerkraut, jalapeno and arugula

Gourdough's is another lethal trailer at this location.  The doughnuts are made upon order, and thus are the freshest and hottest doughnuts you can get in Austin.  The doughnut is light and fluffy.  Perfection.

Gourdough's-Naughty & Nice doughnut

La Boîte Cafe: Follow-up

So last time, I wrote that La Boite's croissants were dense and were not flakey.  But after buying croissants early in the morning rather than in the afternoon, I realized that their freshly baked croissants are indeed flakey, particularly the almond croissants. 

Assortment of Croissants: butter, ham and cheese, and almond

I was even happier when I found out that La Boîte makes macarons, and not just the boring usual flavors, but bold and creative ones!  Below were the first macarons I bought from this bakery.  I have also tasted rose, guava, durian, pistachio with chocolate ganache, and chocolate with coffee cream.  Forget about the dinky Central Market macarons, these are much more satisfying!

Assortment of Macarons: (I forgot what the multi-colored one is), lemon, vanilla, fleur de sel caramel, plum, and green tea 


I purchased a couple of Kenobi deals on-line (Living Social or Groupon...I forgot which) so that I can try out some of the interesting dishes listed on their menu. Because the menu looked like Kenobi was trying to (or just copying) approach some dishes like Uchi, and the pricing is a little bit more affordable, especially with the online deal, I went ahead and bought 2 deals.

I couldn't wait to try all the interesting dishes on the menu and ended up visiting Kenobi twice in one month!

First Visit:

I started with some cold dishes (tuna carpaccio and tako) and was impressed by the quality of the seafood.  The tuna carpaccio was bursting with citrusy and garlic flavors, and the fried onions gave each bite of tuna a nice crunch.
Tuna Carpaccio-garlic oil, cilantro, fried onions, ponzu sauce


The Kobe beef hibachi was a painful $13 for six teensy slices, but those were the most tender bits of beef I've ever had.  This is so much better than wagyu beef served at other establishments like Uchi.  As expensive as it is, I still recommend trying this dish at least once.
Kobe Beef Hibachi

Kobe Beef Hibachi
Kenobi has a long list of creative makimonos, and I felt that I must try at least one roll on my first visit.  The Scuba Diver had all the seafood I like in one roll (soft shell crab, salmon, and tuna).  It was tasty, but the sushi rice is too mushy.  This made the texture of the raw fish blend in with the rice, which was not the most pleasant feeling.  I prefer to taste the difference between each ingredient, especially the more expensive ingredients in a dish.

Scuba Diver Roll-soft shell crab, cucumber, masago, fresh salmon, yellowfin tuna, avocado, with spicy pepper paste

I didn't bother with an entree, seeing how inexpensive the fried whole fish is ($11!!!!!!!!!!!!).  The chef made around 10 slits on each side of the fish and inserted large slices of ginger, fried the fish, and arranged lemon slices on top.  This dish is awesome!  After devouring the entire fish, my dining partner and I decided to forgo dessert and come back in another week.
Ginger & Citrus Whole Fish with Ponzu

Second Visit:

After an awesome first visit, my dining companion and I did not hold back on ordering beyond the gift certificate I bought online.

The smoked hamachi, again very fresh and tasty, but the parmesan cheese made no sense.  This was exactly how I felt about Uchi's maguro sashimi and goat cheese.  I prefer crunchy and refreshing accoutrements to sashimi over soft and heavy or overpowering textures and flavors.

Smoked Hamachi - with ponzu sauce, parmesan cheese, cilantro, jalapenos, and smoked sea salt

Pork jowl or cheeks have a tight and sinewy texture.  It's a dish that you don't come by often at restaurants, so I had to try it out.  The goat cheese in this dish complements the pork much better than the parmesan with the hamachi, because the flavor of the braised pork is heavy and can't be overpowered by the cheese and the tight and fleshy texture can carry the creaminess of the cheese (the cheese with sashimi slides around awkwardly in your mouth).  This dish is like a carnivore's candied apple with pecans.
Braised Pork Jowl - with green apples, goat cheese, candied pecans, chive oil, and sweet asian spice soy

Underwhelmed by the Scuba Diver roll I ordered last time, I decided to give Kenobi's makimono another shot.  We ordered the Louisiana roll and the Surf and Turf roll.  The Louisiana roll was topped with soft shell crawfish, which was super delicious, but the Surf and Turf roll was over-the-top luxurious a slice of raw Kobe beef on top of each slice of makimono!  The Surf and Turf was has a special smoky flavor that makes this roll a stand-out.  I did not notice the mushy-ness of the sushi rice this time, but perhaps it's because these two rolls don't have raw fish, and so the soft texture was not as prominent. 

Louisiana Roll - spicy crab and shrimp, avocado, soft shell crawfish, spicy pepper paste, eel sauce, green onions

Surf and Turf Roll - kani kama and asparagus with seared kobe beef on top, in soy paper, spicy mayo, ginger yakitori sauce

Next came the miso bass, which is good, but not particularly creative or different from the miso cod you can order at other Japanese restuarants.

Miso Chilean Sea Bass - with grilled bok choy and sauteed oyster mushrooms

The seafood curry rice was addictively good.  The server cracked an egg into the hot bowl and mixed everything together in front of us. 

Seafood Curry Rice

We were full by the time we asked the waiter to box up the rest of the seafood curry rice, but once he mentioned green tea tiramisu, I forgot that I was already full.  I can't resist green tea anything, and this was no exception.  :-)

Green Tea Tiramisu