Friday, January 24, 2020

El Naranjo Now in South Austin

El Naranjo began as a food trailer during the opening era of what's now the hip and trendy Rainey Street, and soon opened a brick and mortar restaurant there. And searching my past blog posts, I first visited in June 2010! This past fall, they moved into the old El Chipiron spot on South Lamar at Manchaca, where there's plenty of parking! I recently visited for dinner with some friends.
We all loved this Queso Oaxaca Fundido with chorizo. Crispy around the edges, and gooey in the middle, with flavorful chorizo that wasn't super greasy. Served with housemade blue corn tortillas and  a verde salsa.
Their complimentary bread service, including butter with orange zest, chile oil, and escabeche (pickled veggies).

Cochinita Pibil, the classic Mexican pork dish, traditionally cooked in banana leaves until it falls apart, with refried black beans and pickled onions.
Pesacado al Cilantro, or redfish with cilantro and ginger butter. This was fresh and light with bursts of flavor.

I am always a sucker for mole, and this mole negro with duck breast was plated beautifully. However for my tastes, I felt the sauce was on the thin side, and while they use 30 ingredients in it, I was unable to detect the nuances that I love in a mole like sweetness from raisins or prunes.
A delicious chocolate torte for dessert!
El Naranjo has kept some of the decor of the previous restaurant like the web of ropes. 

The bar
Bowls on the way to the restrooms
From the street
All in all it was an enjoyable meal, and we had a great server, Amanda. Unfortunately they were out of the Negro Modelo beer I initially ordered, so I chose a glass of Tempranillo. I would definitely go back, but I think I would try things other than what is normally my go-to mole dish at an interior Mexican restaurant. Neither of my dinner companions wanted to try the huitlachoche (corn fungus!), but I have had it before and liked it, so Ill have to back to try El Naranjo's.

Have you been to the new South Lamar location? What have you eaten?
Blogger Widgets

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Top Photos of 2019

Well, January's not quite over but I am slightly behind the times! Here's my Top Nine photos from Instagram in 2019! Are you following me on IG?! I post more over there than I do on the blog.

Going clockwise from the top:

  1. My one non-food picture, my main man #CharlieWhiskers
  2. Chicken tinga tacos at ATX Cocina
  3. New product from Upriver Cacao, cold brewed cacao, being demoed at Central Market Westgate
  4. Hong Kong Noodles with char siu pork at Me Cong Bistro
  5. Carbonara at the Artipasta trailer
  6. Chicken liver mousse from Winebelly
  7. Setting up for a Kamayan dinner at Be More Pacific
  8. H-Mart's food court, including the Korean fried chicken and onion rings at Donkey Mo's and udon + tonkotsu from Roba Katsu
  9. My homemade miso soup
Happy eating, y'all and here's to another year of delicious eats (and fuzzy cats!).

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

First Look: The Shore Raw Bar + Grill

Hello! I am back! I know it's been a hot minute since I have blogged. I hope you are keeping up with my eats (yes, still eating!) over on my Instagram page (and don't forget the Stories).
Snapper crudo 
Last week I met some friends for happy hour at Shore Raw Bar + Grill, which is on Hwy 71, just a little past the original Jack Allen's. That area of southwest Austin is booming (okay, really ALL of Austin is booming, who am I kidding?) and Shore has been open about 8 months. I didn't get any great shots, but there's a huge covered (I think) patio area, that on this drizzly day had heaters blazing. Would be a lovely spot when the weather is decent. I liked the interior too, high ceilings, large-scale art work (even fun stuff in the restroom), and a great mosaic floor when walking in.  Though I am not sure I'd want patrons to see a skull when first arriving. 😉 Very large bar, and multiple televisions but the sound was off (thank you!).
The Shore mosaic skull entryway
Beautiful design, but how it relates to a seafood spot, I am not sure.
Here's a look at what we had.
The Shore calamari
Calamari. Good but could of been fried a teeny bit longer, breading didn't stay on real well. 
The Shore blue crab fingers
Blue crab fingers (also below) were quite delicious in their lemon butter sauce. They're small, total length of one of my fingers. You pull the pincher part and then suck the meat off and out from the remaining claw. Little messy but fun.

The Shore blue crab fingers

The Shore raw oysters
Three types of raw oysters. My friends enjoyed these as well as oyster shooters, but raw oysters just aren't my thing.  They said the sauces (horseradish, mignonette and cocktail) were very good. 
The Shore ceviche
Decent ceviche with really great thick tortilla chips. Not sure what type of fish was used. 

The Shore snapper crudo
Our waiter wasn't the most knowledgeable about what the prices for happy hour items were, but he made up for it with this crudo recommendation. THIS WAS AMAZING! I would order it again in a heartbeat.  Fresh snapper with orange segments in a leche de tigre sauce (Peruvian origins: liquid from the marinated fish, lime juice, touch of oil, and probably some secret ingredient.... I'd almost say I detected a hint of coconut milk, but I wouldn't swear my life on it). So fresh and lovely. Fish may change depending on what's fresh, as it should.
The Shore cherry cobbler
Skillet cherry cobbler with a fantastic buttery crumble topping. The three of us could barely finish this. 

All in all, The Shore is a welcome addition to the Oak Hill/Bee Caves/Galleria area. Happy hour Monday - Saturday, 3 - 6 pm. 8665 W. Hwy 71, at Covered Bridge Drive.

Monday, October 7, 2019

Bao'd Up is Open in Sunset Valley!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork belly guabao
Pork belly guabao, one of my favorite items at Bao'd Up
BIG THANKS to Bao'd Up for 1) opening in South Austin 😊 and 2) having me out for lunch. This is a sponsored post, but all opinions are my own. I was not monetarily compensated for this post, nor was one requested from me. I am here to spread the good gospel of Bao'd Up!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley logo tables
I met my friend Rebecca of The Honest Foodist (check out her blog and especially her Instagram Stories!) for lunch at Bao'd Up on Friday, where we sampled a number of items on the menu.  They are located at 5207 Brodie Lane, right next door to Tarka and down from Petsmart.
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley ordering system
When you walk in to Bao'd Up, there are four self-serve terminals on your right.  You do your own ordering, and it gives you options to customize like rice instead of noodles on the bowls. 
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley ordering system
There are even options with the boba or bubble teas, from different flavors, to bases, to sweetness options. You can also place a to go order online. Once you pay, your receipt will have a bar code, or if ordering online, you'll receive a confirmation code. Don't throw your receipt out!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley lockers food pick up
There are a couple screens inside the restaurant that show your name and order status. Once your order is ready, it is placed inside one of these lockers and it shows "completed" by your name on the screen. You either scan your receipt or enter your code on the keypad, and a locker door pops open.

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley lockers food pick up
Ta dah! There's your food! (And so if you're ordering online, you may never have to interact with staff at Bao'd but that doesn't mean you should forgo a tip.)
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley bao guabao bowls boba
Yum yum! More explanation on what everything is, coming up!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork brisket bao egg custard
Alex the manager admitted sometimes it's even hard for him to tell the pork bao apart! 😉 

Dang, I can't make this video larger. Here's Rebecca breaking bao (BBQ pork).

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley brisket bao
Brisket bao, a tasty Texas twist!

Bao'd Up Sunset Valley pork belly guabao
My favorite of the baos was the pork belly guabao (taco style) that's pictured at the very top of this post. The pork belly was so tender, it fell apart like pulled pork. And the flavors were phenomenal, though messy to eat!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley spicy pork bowl with rice
This was my other favorite of everything we had, the spicy pork bowl with soft boiled egg and veggies. We got this with rice, but I will SO be getting this again with noodles! The pork had such a wonderful flavor and a nice medium spice level.  I am kind of drooling thinking about it right now! I loved this. 
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley braised chicken bowl with glass noodles
I think this was Rebecca's favorite, the braised chicken bowl, which we got with gluten free glass noodles (I think they were Korean sweet potato noodles). The chicken must have cooked for ages because the meat fell off the bone and had a light Chinese five spice seasoning to it. She said it reminded her of her family's home style Vietnamese food.

Top left is the crispy fish guabao, where they use barramundi, a Pacific ocean fish, also known as Asian sea bass. It was nicely fried, meaty, and really good. Top right is the pork belly guabao, and at the bottom is chicken katsu (fried chicken cutlet). 

Not pictured is the egg cream bao, which I remember from their Mueller location, because it made me a fan of  them! And this one did not disappoint. Sunset Valley is now the third location for Bao'd Up, with Mueller as the original, and they opened on Rio Grande + 22nd Street earlier this summer. I am so thankful Bao'd Up has come to South Austin, as I honestly don't know a place down here that serves bao. A wonderful new spot for us Southies to enjoy! More Asian food, please!

Thanks again to Alex and the Bao'd Up team for having us for lunch!
Bao'd Up Sunset Valley mural
Mural, part of the fun vibe at Bao'd Up. There's a similar one at the Mueller location too.

Monday, September 30, 2019

First Look: Salt Traders in Zilker is Open!

I generally shy away from new restaurants the first couple of months they are open for obvious reasons. But Mad Betty strongly suggested the just-opened Salt Traders next to Zilker Park for our Friday night happy hour, as she has loved their original location in Round Rock. Yet another brainchild of owner/chef Jack Allen, Salt Traders is all about coastal life. And proves to be very sea worthy.

They took an old steak house on the east frontage road of Mopac at Bee Caves in that tree-lined office park with the IHOP and transformed it. (The southwest side of Zilker, past the Botanical Gardens.) Lots of windows, full of light, lots of light-colored wood accents. The bar at the front is three-sided, and the television was mounted on the interior header so as not to be a distraction to those in the dining area (genius!).
Salt Traders Zilker interior
You can sort of see the bottom edge of the television from where were sitting but I was thrilled it wasn't mounted on the outside of that header piece.
Salt Traders sources sustainable seafood from around the American coastlines, with a keen eye on the Gulf Coast. For the non-seafood eaters, there are burger, steak, and chicken offerings, but clearly the stars of the menu are the fruits of the sea.

We got there just before 5 pm on Friday, which might have been their second official full day of business, and we were lucky to snag a table when we did.  Fortunately were were seated on the far wall, opposite the door but we could soon see people starting to pile up around the entrance.  We took advantage of their lovely happy hour specials.
Salt Traders Zilker cocktails
The Grapefruit Rita and Dripping Springs Vodka Lemonade.
Salt Traders Zilker chowda fries
Chowda Fries. OH MY! Basically clam chowder poured over fries. YES, more please! 
Salt Traders Zilker snapper collar
Snapper collar with slaw and tartar sauce. You do have to pick at it a little, but the flesh falls right off and was very tasty. 
Salt Traders Zilker mussels
These mussels were done with fennel and tomato and had a luxurious broth that we wanted to drink.
Salt Traders Zilker hush puppies
Hush puppies were dense but not at all greasy.
Salt Traders Zilker key lime tartlet
This key lime tartlet was the one miss for me. Very little key lime flavor, the crust was over-toasted and completely fell apart as a fork got near it. I did provide constructive feedback to our waitress who said she would notify the kitchen. A friend of mine went the night before we did and had the coconut cheesecake mousse, which she said was excellent. But for this to be the only miss at a restaurant during opening week, I'll take it!
Given Jack Allen's experience in the restaurant world (aka Captain of the Ship), it's no real surprise that Salt Traders has started out on the top of their game from the get go. Service from the wait staff was excellent and apart from the key lime tart, all of the food was great and are items I will order again. They are open daily from 11 am - 10 pm, and won't even need the excess traffic from Austin City Limits music festival the next two weekends, as I think they'll be packed as it is.

A very welcome addition to the area, and I imagine Salt Traders will stay afloat for a long time.