With the little time we had in Austin, it was of utmost importance to be wise about our food choices. Smooth Obturator left it to me to decide between Qui and Barley Swine. Ultimately, Barley Swine won out though it was tough to pass up a Top Chef winner’s restaurant. The food at Barley Swine seemed looked to be the sophisticated/white linen type though the ambiance was Texas saloon with 80s music. Our server was wearing manpris and loafers with no socks.
We started off with this refreshing and light course. The oceanic sweetness of the crab paired nicely with the sweet melon.
The soup was silky and luscious. It was sweet and complemented by a caramelized onion marmalade. The pecan miso was nutty and unique. The pancetta brought the needed saltiness. The shredded orange thing was some crunchy butternut squash for added texture. Well done!
Octopus Terrine watermelon, yogurt
Things were off to a marvelous start, but then we had this odd dish. The octopus in terrine form was unique but didn’t seem to mesh with the watermelon yogurt or compressed watermelon. The added savoriness from the puffed rice and togarashi felt too contrasting.
This might have been my favorite dish of the night. It felt like an elevated gumbo with the poached shrimp, pork sausage, okra, and spicy tomatoes. Every component was excellent on its own, but all together it really sang. It was both modern yet comforting.
The lightly pickled squash was nice. The dish provided many textures with the crunchy sunflower, pumpkin, and sesame seeds, whipped goat cheese, and crisp pickled squash. It was a strong vegetarian dish.
I can’t say I tasted much of the peach and bourbon, which I presume was their way of reinventing a Chinese classic. I will commend Barley Swine on making a pretty good Chinese pork bun. The bun itself was excellent, very soft and unctuous on the palate. And how can you not crack a smile at the whimsical presentation? Though I believe Smooth Obturator found it “disturbing.”
I liked the depth of the blistered peppers with its hint of smoke. The mushroom glaze was perhaps a bit thick, but the flavor had a sweet umaminess. There was a fried egg puree inside. The dish reminded of a sophisticated modern day stuffed jalapeño.
The snapper was the first of the more substantial courses. It was perfectly seared with a leaf of hoja santa. I can’t remember it adding much flavor. The crab corn mousseline was perfection. The smokey broth with pickling liquid foam brought contrasting but very delicious flavors. Tasty.
This was like a really tasty beef salad. It brought some Asian notes with toasted peanuts. It was only mildly spicy from some serrano peppers. The garlic chive emulsion was so flavorful. I liked this one a lot.
The duck two ways was nice, but I preferred the roasted breast over the confit pieces. The potato puree was smoother than smooth. The pickled shallots added some sweet acid.
I’ve never had kombucha in a dessert like this. It was fizzy and sweet from the kombucha, but salty and sweet from the streusel. The chewy dried fruits added good texture. The camomile meringue was light and floral.
Candy Bar coffee and hay semifreddo, toasted peanut, salted caramel, dark chocolate
Cannoli mango, thai lime, spiced chocolate
Fig Leather ste maure cheese
As always, I was so full by the end of the meal. But of course they always leave you with some extra little sweet treats. My favorite was the candy bar which tasted like an ice cream Snickers bar. The filling of the cannoli was better than the cannoli itself. Tart cheese and dried fruit tend to go well together, so I thought it was clever wrapping it in a cute little square.