Saturday, February 20, 2016

First Look at Vinaigrette

The new Vinaigrette opened on Wednesday at 2201 College Avenue (really, it's Live Oak and South Congress, the former Treehouse Grill). A New Mexico import, they have locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque (which I've been to), and they are so committed to locally sourced items, that they bought a farm in Bastrop to grow their produce for their first Austin location. You might guess by their name, they are salad-centric, so a bounty of produce will be in order!

Their concept is a salad base with your choice or proteins: chicken, pork, steak, duck confit, tofu, tuna, scallops, shrimp, roast veggies, there's something for everyone. There are some other veggie-based bar snacks, soups, and sandwiches available too, plus a nice drinks menu with both alcoholic and virgin concoctions.

I rarely go to new restaurants in the first month or two of operation, but a friend had heard me talk about Vinaigrette and wanted to go for our dinner date on Friday night.  When I arrived, I found her at the bar, drinking a Kale Mary, a potent and spicy kale, celery and vodka cocktail that she was thrilled with. When we moved to a table, I ordered a virgin ginger turmeric tonic, requesting strong on the ginger. After tasting mine, my friend ordered one too, though hers seemed to have more a more gingery punch than mine. Hopefully, consistency will reign once they get into their groove.
Vinaigrette Austin -- ginger turmeric tonic
My friend ordered the mushroom soup, which seemed very wintry, and almost beefy in flavor, but apparently it's got miso in it adding to the umami punch, along with a blend of mushrooms.
Vinaigrette Austin -- mushroom soup
I ordered the Asian chopped salad with duck confit. At first glance there didn't seem to be a lot of confit, but as I kept eating, I discovered more and more. Unfortunately, they skipped the dressing -- the actual VINAIGRETTE! -- when the salad was brought over. No wonder it was fairly bland. Once I pointed this out to the waitress, the peanutty miso dressing changed everything, and I really enjoyed it. You sort have to fight your way through the crispy rice noodles, but they do add a nice textural crunch to the salad.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- Asian chopped salad
We split a piece of carrot cake for dessert; all desserts are made in house, and this was one of the best pieces of carrot cake I've had in a long time! The frosting was not overly sweet, which I think made it for me.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- carrot cake
Vinaigrette is a large space, with a high vaulted ceiling, walls of windows, and a beautiful looking patio under the huge live oak tree. Green tile accents the bar and one wall inside, and they are not without their sense of humor, as evidenced by the restroom markers. Clearly my pictures don't do it justice, but I had to use the flash a little on my camera. I've seen some daylight shots of both the interior and exterior, and it was really nice.
Vinaigrette Austin  -- bar
Vinaigrette Austin  --restroom signage
It seems to be a comfortable and unpretentious spot, and I look forward to Vinaigrette as a South Austin addition. Hopefully the small glitches will even out over the coming weeks.