Tuesday, August 30, 2011

La Condesa Austin

I visited with two friends on a Monday evening. We had to make reservations because the restaurant is always full – if you decide you want to try La Condesamake a reservation! Two of us arrived early and visited the bar where I ordered a Margarita Classico, which was delicious, but small for the $8 price tag. My friend ordered a Shiner which was $5. Kind of ridiculous in Texas.

When we were seated we decided to start out with a bunch of the smaller plates. We ordered chips and salsa ($4!) which came with four small salsas ranging from chipotle mild to habanero hot.We decided to try the crab and apple guacamole which was $8 (most guacamoles are $6 but the one with crab had a $2 upcharge). The taste was amazing, the amount (of crab and the overall amount of guacamole) was lacking. I assumed it would be a giant molcajete full but it was just a small cup. The crab was fresh and the texture of the apple in the guacamole was nice.

Crab and apple guacamole & salsas
Next we decided to try a huarache. We chose the Panza de Puerco (pork belly - $14). It was pretty small – not at all what I am used to when ordering huaraches especially considering it’s called a huarache because of the dish’s resemblance to a shoe. This would’ve been a shoe for a young person with extremely narrow feet. The pork belly itself was amazing.  It melted in your mouth as pork belly should. Sadly, the masa base was tough and oily.

We then ordered the Hamachi ceviche, priced at $16. It was beautiful and came in a broth of different citrus juices. The flavor was bright and refreshing and was served with grapefruit sections, avocado, and chicharron to add a nice surprising crunch. This was a dish I wished there was more of.

As our main dish we decide to share two sides and an entrée. We chose the chile relleno ($20) because 1) it was $12 less than the short rib and 2) the combination of manchego and butternut squash sounded delicious. Unfortunately, it did not live up to our expectations. One friend inconspicuously spit out her share while the other friend and I nibbled on it trying to figure out what the odd taste was. I couldn’t taste any of the squash or manchego. It’s possible that it was an off night, but I wouldn’t order this dish again to find out.

The Mexican Elote was good and they offered to cut it in half for two of us to share. The platanos were delicious – they were topped with the avocado tomatillo salsa and some queso fresco but even without, the flavor of the plantains alone would have satisfied us. They were probably the best thing I had there all night.

For dessert we tried one of the house made ice creams ($2). We chose the banana brown sugar which tasted just like banana nut bread. It was accompanied by a Mexican wedding cookie.

The positives:
The décor in La Condesa is beautiful. The patio would be a great place to enjoy dinner when the weather cools down.  The chips were warm which is a plus and my margarita was delicious. I also did not order an entrée with meat so it’s possible that I would have enjoyed that better.

The negatives:
The restaurant was HOT - it had to have been about 85 degrees inside. We had pretty poor service, so maybe our waitress had too many tables. We saw her walking past us a lot, she just rarely stopped to check in. The restaurant was also very dark (that’s why there are not more pictures) - possibly to try and counteract the heat and even more likely to help hide politicians who were out with their non-wives. The restroom situation is odd. It’s upstairs (just a small flight) which is fine for me, but I just thought about older or handicapped patrons who don’t do well with stairs. There is a small elevator right next to the entrance which I feel would be 1) difficult to use and 2) very attention grabbing and possibly embarrassing.

Overall, it was a very disappointing experience. Would I return? Yes, if someone were paying for my meal. So, if anyone wants to take me just let me know.

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