Sunday, August 21, 2011

El Arbol Austin

Thanks to another dining coupon, this time Living Social, I was finally motivated to try El Arbol in central Austin. I had heard mixed reviews about this place, but when the coupon was sent earlier this year I figured it would be a good way to try El Arbol out without spending too much money.

I went with two friends who I personally love eating out with. They are up for trying new things and are wonderful conversationalists. One provided the pictures for this review since my phone is old and the pictures I was taking came out too dark.

Pulpo de parrilla
We decided to begin with the Pulpo a la parrilla: oak grilled octopus, charred fennel, roasted potato, salmorra. I am not a fan of octopus having tasted it at a sushi restaurant and chewing, chewing, chewing was still in it's tentacle shape. This night we decided to try it for two reasons: 1) it was made on this week's MasterChef finale and got rave reviews from the judges, and 2) it was only $8. The dish was plated beautifully. The octopus was not near as chewy as we expected and had a good flavor from the grill. The salmorra (a tomato and garlic puree) was tasty and we mopped it up the provided bread. 

Bruschetta de bife
Next we tried the Bruschetta de Bife: oak grilled rare tenderloin, caramelized red onion, charred tomatoes, fried king oyster mushrooms, and aioli on toasted bread. I wish I had ordered this all on my own and didn't have to share. Everything melded perfectly. The tenderloin melted in my mouth. The mushrooms had an almost vinegary flavor which I loved. This was by far my favorite dish of the evening. 

Ceviche de Criollo
The third appetizer we tried was the Ceviche de Criollo - gulf snapper cured in citrus, with tomato, garlic, red onion and crostini. The fish was extremely fresh. The color on this was amazing - so vibrant. I believe this dish also had some bell peppers (I am not a fan) but I still enjoyed this. It was light and flavorful.

Grilled escolar
We decided to share one dish from the grill and settled on the grilled escolar on top of roasted corn and herbed manchego gnocchi. The fish was light and moist. There was probably too much corn on the plate and the only reason that bothered me was because I wish instead of corn, there had been more of the gnocchi. They were browned on the outside and light and pillowy in the middle.

Brussel Sprouts
As our side, I convinced my friends to get the Repollitos de Bruselas: fried brussel sprouts with lemon juice and aioli. I recently discovered how much I love brussel sprouts so I have been trying to order them at different restaurants that offer them. These were so tasty - my mouth is watering now as I write. The tartness of the lemon juice and the deep flavor of the caramelized brussel sprouts was a perfect combination. I was happy one that one of my friends doesn't like brussel sprouts because this meant I got to eat more.   

Finally, it was time for dessert. We chose the Bacon-Brioche which consisted of bacon gelato, brioche bread pudding, poached raisins, walnut streusel, bruleed bananas and whiskey vanilla sauce. I wasn't that impressed with the bread pudding. The gelato was good and had a nice salty finish. I could have had a bowl of just the gelato with the bananas and walnuts. The bread pudding looked like a hard piece of flan and seemed like a traditional piece of bread pudding put into a pressure chamber to make a perfect block. The flavor was good, the consistency was not what we expected.

Other things to note - this restaurant is beautiful. There are three levels. I cannot wait for the weather to cool down so I can go enjoy a drink on the upstairs patio. Speaking of drinks, they are a little pricey so I recommend taking advantage of the happy hour specials. Overall this was an amazing dining experience and I recommend giving El Arbol a visit.


  1. I want the bruchetta, ceviche, and gnocchi! It looks great.

  2. it was all so good. if they do restaurant week this year we should all go!