Thursday, March 21, 2013

St. Louis has nothing to worry about.

The other night, my wife and I had a free night in downtown Austin, Texas and decided that a night out, at one of the trendy and local, seasonal, farm to table restaurants may do the trick.  This restaurant, Parkside, has won awards and attention for their raw bar and oysters as well as their use of sustainable and seasonal foods.   Not for their other foods.  Now, when my wife and I stood there, waiting 10 minutes past out 8:00 reservation, we wondered if it could be as good as other great restaurants in this same category: like Farmhaus.  The answer is 'no'.

The interior of Parkside reminds me a lot of Taste.  It is dark, the lights are high up and everything has dark wood colored tones.  The hostess staff are dressed in black.  There was seating near the bar and more seating in a separate dining room behind the bar in the next room.  What was odd about our wait, was that they seated several people who just walked in and asked for a seat, before us.  So, right off the bat, reservations here mean nothing.  After being sat at a table/booth combo, we were greeted by our waiter who was not very friendly or knowledgable.  He didn't know what the different selections of oysters had in them, where they were from, or even where they were from.  It was odd since this place is famous for their oyster selection.  As we looked at the menu, we noticed that the food was priced a bit high, which would be alright if the food came in reasonable sized portions and were great, but neither was the case at Parkside.  We ordered some drinks, he left and returned with them and then without saying a word, left.  We didn't see him come back to our table for 10 minutes.  Our waiter seemed too occupied with the large table of 8 people next to us, which was odd since they were more than 6 and had an automatic 18% tip added in and would make sense that the guy should work on the tip that wasn't automatic.

There was a good selection of food and as such, we both selected some appetizers.  We were told that the beef marrow dish is cooked to order and would be about 20-30 minutes and since after we waited 10 minutes for him to come back, we figured that the 20-30 minute wait wouldn't be that bad.  So, while we waited, and waited, finally our starters came out.  The first one that came out was the Kampachi, which was pieces of fish with some blood oranges and ginger for $12.  We thought it would be a good sized plate for $12.  This was it:

Was it any good?  Neh.  The blood orange segments completly ruined any good flavors from the dish.  So, would we order it again?  No.  It stands at a 2 out of 5 stars.

I'm thinking that I made a good decision and set off to accept my Potato Gnocchi with sunchoke butter, arugula and a citrus gel.  This is what I got:

Someone needs to go back to cooking school.  Gnocchi are supposed to be a little firm, a gummy, toothsom texture, like al-dente' pasta.  Guess what this was? Mushy.  They tasted like someone mashed some potatoes and then cooked them in little balls in boiling water, like you would cook spaetzle.  They were flavorless and not seasoned at all.  I tasted not even salt or pepper.  The sunchoke butter was super sweet and there were these orange segments which were tart.  The citrus gel, was a runny sauce.  If you say that something is a gel, then it better be a gel, not a runny sauce. Here's the thing, if myself or my wife can make food better than what we pay for at a restaurant, then the restaurant did a bad job on it.  This is a 2 and 1/2 out of 5 stars.  For $10, I'd say that the price was a bit high.

As we are still waiting for the marrow bones, we got one of the other starters which my wife had ordered.  She picked out the Caramelized Cauliflower with chili, calabrese and capers.  This was for $7 and we had a small plate here: 

So, we paid $7 for partially cooked cauliflower and a few capers.  What was most promanint about the dish was the large leaf of parsley there, for no reason.  A 2 out of 5 stars.

So, finally Marrow Bones comes out with an herb salad, a whole $14.50.  This is what is delivered to us:

First thing, flat leaf parsley leaves, strewn over the bones with some bony fescue, is not an herb salad.  Second thing is, that when something so rich and fatty is served, something that is tart or acidic should be served with it.  Traditionally the greens are tart or sour and there should be some vinegar; even a simple dressing that should go with this dish.  But there was none.  It was fat on burnt toast.  The fat was also quite boring.  At Truffles, a St. Louis restaurant, when we last ordered some beef marrow bones there, they cooked them, then scooped the marrow out, mixed it with herbs and spices and then placed it back in the bones for presentation.  So, they were not boring as in this place  I love my marrow, I really do, but this was just good, like a 3 out of 5 stars.  Its just that for the price, we expected a bit more time and effort.

The last dish was the real winner of the evening.  I figured that what looks like to be the strangest item on the menu, should be the best one to pick.  So, I ordered the Grilled Hill Country Rabbit with roasted carrots, green garlic spaetzle, carrot puree' crema, and red wine vinegarette for $24.  

Does it look like rabbit?  The rabbit, is in these disc shaped patties.  They had what tasted like bacon, wrapped around them and the whole thing tasted like bad tasting ham.  Really.  I know that rabbit does not taste like ham, so why did it taste like turned pork or salted and brine-marinated pork.  The meat was awful and even if they made a mistake and gave me ham, it was so salty, so terribly salt, you could kill a room full of slugs with one bite.  So, let's look for the carrots.  There is one that is bright orange, in the 6 o'clock area of the photo.  At about the 9 o'clock area are two more carrots.  These were more roasted than the other one and even worse is that the two dark roasted ones, were so burnt that there was no flesh there to eat!  The green garlic spaetzle, were the best part of this dish.  I ate every one of them and if you could take one part of this dish out and separate it, I would take those.  They alone were like a 4 out of 5 stars.  They were awesome and I really did eat every one.  It was just sad that it was so salty and I couldn't eat it.  I will say this: this is the last one.  My wife kept egging me into returning the dish, because it was so bad.  I told her it was okay, but after this, restaurants look out, I will ask to return items that are bad or suck.

My thoughts?  Parkside sucks.  Parkside is also supposed to be an award winning restaurant and award winning restaurants need to be good.  So, for St. Louis which has a number of award winning restaurants which pop up all the time, they have nothing to worry about.  

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