Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Many an Austinite mourned the prolonged closure of Titaya's Thai Cuisine as they remodeled the restaurant and updated the menu. Many of those have long thought that Titaya's was the best Thai food in town. And after what seemed like an eternity, they reopened last month to much fanfare and rejoicing. Those fans may still think it's the best Thai food in town, but while my recent meal was solid, I would beg to differ.

The first Sunday of SXSW, and I had friends in from out of town. They also have friends living in north-central Austin, and Titaya's was suggested as the place for a 6 pm meet up, for four adults, one 5 year old (with an adventurous palate!), and one infant. We had about a 15 minute wait, which wasn't too bad. Fortunately, we were seated in one of the large booths which was quite comfortable for our group. The booth next to us had eight adults packed into it and then two high chairs at the end of the table! The initial wait for a table gave me a few minutes to look at the nicely updated decor: many framed pictures, framed pieces of cloth hanging from the ceiling, a wall of candles. Very colorful and fun.
We started with the som tum (green papaya salad) and fresh spring rolls with shrimp. The som tum comes in a nice mortar and pestle container, and while very fresh, it didn't have the contrast of flavors from the fish sauce or the spiciness that I have come to expect with this dish.
Half the group were vegetarians, so we stuck to seafood and tofu as our proteins. Definitely my favorite dish was the #T4 Chuu Chee Pla, basa (catfish), which was battered and fried, and served with red curry. We asked for the curry not to be too hot, since we had a child with us, and I think the heat level was perfect. Lots of good flavors in the piquant red curry, and the fish was very nice and crispy. Winner.
Titaya's pad thai (with shrimp) was okay; for me though it was a bit too sweet, and not enough tamarind, which provides a sweet and twangy taste. The texture of the noodles was good, but just not that flavorful. Very nice fresh bean sprouts.
The pad see ew was another dish that for me missed the mark. Typically, it's wide rice noodles in a brown gravy/sauce. There was no other flavor to the sauce other than soy, and the noodles seemed a bit thick, and the fried tofu was very chewy. Yes, pad see ew is a soy-based dish, but usually there's some fish sauce and sweetness, not just soy sauce!
The eggplant with mixed veggies was not only colorful, but had a nice little kick to it too. Good consistency to the eggplant, and the stir fried veggies still had some snap to them.
So am I being overly picky? Perhaps. (Though I have talked with one friend who was a huge Titaya's fanatic before the remodel, and he said he was a bit disappointed with their food on his return visit.) Only being about a month into their re-opening, is it a bit too early to tell how things will shake down? Perhaps. Would I eat there again? Yes. But I would like to try some of the dishes with animal protein, not just vegetarian items. But judging from the large numbers of people waiting for tables throughout our meal, Titaya's is quickly making up for those months they were closed, and they will continue to see people flocking to them. As for me, I will stay in my neighborhood and head to Thai Fresh for a great pad thai dish.

Sorry for the slightly blurry photos; when dining with groups (and when there are people I don't know) I try to get my pictures done in a hurry so they're not waiting on me to get a shot.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bits and Bites

-- Dan's Hamburgers at Ben White and Manchaca (finally!) reopened.
-- JuiceLand now offers online ordering for quick pick ups.
-- Greenhouse Craft Food has opened in Round Rock, featuring a local artisan menu.
-- Apothecary has a new executive chef, Albert Gonzalez, and has debuted a new seasonal menu.
-- New on South Lamar, in the construction on either side of the Broken Spoke: Boardwalk Burger (now open) and Bruegger's Bagels (coming soon).  
-- Cooper's BBQ has announced plans to open an outlet at 217 Congress in the fall.

-- The Omelettry has announced they've been priced out of their current location, and will look for a new one along Burnet Road.
-- Vivo on Manor Road has closed, but say they want to find another location.

-- The Tillamook Cheese VW Bus will be giving away samples at Hopdoddy on South Congress from 11am - 3pm on Friday, March 21st.  They will also be offering free cheese slices on the Classic Burger all day.
 -- Foodways Texas will hold their fourth annual symposium entitled "Farm to Market" in Bryan-College Station, on March 20-22. From their press release: "Farm to Market 2014 will explore the past, present, and future of Texas agriculture and its intimate connection to Texas cultural history and identity....(the symposium) will be spent discussing Texas crops and crop history, feeding cities, innovative urban farming, rice history and current challenges, Texas grapefruit, the business of olive orchards, wine terroir, and much more."
-- Salvation Pizza will celebrate their anniversary with a benefit; the Glimmer-versary event will be Saturday, March 29th from 12-4pm; proceeds will go to Glimmer of Hope, which strives to improve the circumstances of disadvantaged youth.
-- Jester King Brewery is teaming up with Epicerie for their first ever beer brunch on Sunday, March 30th, at Epicere. 
-- Scrumptious Chef will be hosting a Salsa Shootout on Saturday, April 5th from 6 - 8pm at Tamale House East.
 -- The third Vaca y Vino will be Sunday, April 6th 1-6 pm at Bridges Ranch in Wimberley. Tickets are $100-125, and will feature Argentinean-style celebration of beef, wine, and music, all while benefiting the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance. 
-- A new event space is opening at 1100 East 5th at Waller, Fair Market, is a partnership of several management, restaurant, and event production companies. With 16,000 square feet of indoor space, they can host a variety of events; see their website for getting rental quotes.

-- The Austin Food Blogger Alliance (of which I am a member) partnered with Citygram Magazine to present the annual City Guide to restaurants. My recent post on Regal Ravioli was my contribution to this year's effort. The entire City Guide can be viewed online here, or you can download the Citygram app if you're an Apple/iOS user.

Monday, March 3, 2014

South Austin Restaurant Updates 2014 (plus other rec's as well!)

Oh what a year it has been! We've seen some great new spots open up in South Austin; here's a look at what's new this past year.

Flour + Vine -- I've only been for a tasting, but was very impressed with the food; they haven't really figured out how to use social media to their advantage. My previous post is here. South Lamar and Riverside.
Beef Wellington with purple mashed potatoes
Odd Duck -- The former trailer that started it all for Bryce Gilmore of Barley Swine; they opened in December and I hear great things about the food, but haven't been yet for myself. South Lamar and Gibson.

Barlata -- Genuine Spanish tapas on South Lamar! Charming spot, very modern/industrial architecture; good food, though the paellas have tended to be on the greasy side. Happy hour (in the bar area only) is a great value, with select dishes and drinks being $5. Amazing crema catalana for dessert! (I've had it several times and it's always velvety smooth.) My post is here. South Lamar and Collier.
Mussels with sofrito
Crema catalana

East Side King -- The latest from Paul Qui's empire, and his first foray into South Austin. ESK stems from his Asian fusion food trucks on the east side, each with a different menu. South Lamar and Goodrich.

Austin Beer Garden Brewing (ABGB) -- House-brewed beer and house-made pizza. Both fine. West Oltorf and Thornton (one block east of Lamar).

Winebelly -- Another small plates restaurant, Winebelly has a shabby chic feel, and seasonal menus. I'd go back in a heartbeat! My post is here. South First and Oltorf.
Cauliflower soup with smoked trout
Panzanella salad
El Chile -- Once just a Manor Road favorite, South First and Mary Streets can now claim El Chile as their own too. Casual Tex Mex, with lots of good food and not a lot of grease. Patio seating too.

Dolce Neve -- A true gelato shop, owned and operated by three Italians. They use the traditional method of making gelato and utilize local and seasonal ingredients whenever possible. Deeeee-licious! South First and Annie.
Little Barrel and Brown -- Haven't heard too much about this one yet, but it replaced The Woodland and is in a great location  in the heart of trendy South Congress at Annie.

And of you're looking for some recommendations for vegan, vegetarian fare, and other cuisine in South Austin (and all around town), check out some friends of mine!

Lazy Smurf's SXSW Vegan Guide
Aneelee's South Austin Vegetarian Guide
Mad Betty's Indian Food in Austin
Foodie is the New Forty's Upscale Dining
Mary Makes Dinner Pizza Guide
From Maggie's Farm BBQ East of Austin
From Maggie's Farm Cajun/Creole 
Craft Taste's Craft Beer Guide