Saturday, December 8, 2012

Swift's Attic

Swift's Attic has been on the "hot" list since it opened earlier this year, and the people who I know who have been have raved about it. So it was finally time to go check it out, and I went with a group of eight foodies. However the food overall did not blow me away, though I think one contributing factor was being with a large group and there was so much chatter going on, it was harder to concentrate on the food.

I loved the decor and the feel of the place; for those of you who have been in Austin a while, Swift's occupies the former Kyoto, above the Elephant Room at 315 Congress Avenue. It's a long, narrow space; both these pictures were taken from the lounge/bar. We were seated for dinner at the opposite end. Not sure what the light fixtures below were made from (some type of basket?) but I liked the look and effect. 
It's a bit dark in the restaurant so in many ways, I am "seeing" my food for the first time in looking at these pictures (thank goodness for flash photography!). It also got very loud, not because we were a group (we were seated at a booth at the back), but because they really jacked the overhead music up. There was no way to hear the conversations at the other end of the table. So here's the food that we had, with a little bit of commentary on it. I WOULD like to go back to Swift's with maybe just a couple people to see if being able to focus more on the food would elevate their standing in my book.

Cocktails in the lounge started with The Reunited -- fresh peach, herbed simple syrup, Remy Martin V (cognac-esque), Cointreau, and lemon juice. This went down very easy!
Tempura "frickles" (fried pickles)
Blistered shishito peppers with Garroxta cheese and Banyuls vinegar... From the online menu, I knew this was with Garroxta (aged Spanish goat's milk cheese) and Banyuls (French vinegar from grenache grapes). From the printed menu at the restaurant, all it reads is "Shishito peppers, GBE."  Garroxta Banyuls Emulsion? No idea what GBE stands for, and if I hadn't previously looked online, I really wouldn't have had a clue as to what this was. And this is one of my criticisms of their (and other establishments) menus  -- why is it so lacking in information and details about the dish? Are you supposed to ask your server about every little thing? Why can't a menu be printed with more info???? Grrrrrr.
Charred edamame with chili oil and pop rocks; there was something else in the small bowl closest to you other than pop rocks, but I couldn't tell you what for sure, though now looking at it, I think it's salt and pepper. The middle bowl was for the empty edamame pods.
Raw red kale Caesar salad with crispy sardine; the whole sardine (underneath the kale) was a bit of a surprise!
Fried oysters on horseback with root vegetable puree, crispy serrano ham. The ham was good, but I have no distinct memory of what the other components tasted like.
Squid fries with garlic aioli.... a little on the limp side, bit disappointing.
Goaty Cheesy Poufs with braised goat, crimini mushrooms and basil puree. You know the Brazilian pao de quejo cheese balls? This is what this was, with stuff on top. The cheese balls were very chewy and a bit tough. I think they're sort of lost under the meat and mushrooms.
Tater Tot "Swiftine" with smoked ham hock, queso fresco, and gravy. The meat had good flavor, but there's supposed to be queso fresco in here? Where? Maybe the tater tots are made with it? The tots themselves weren't as crisp as the picture suggests the should be.
Idaho Rainbow trout in a leek and radish broth with sun-dried tomato tapende. Quite tasty, very nice broth.
Fried chicken meatballs with pickled ginger and nori sauce. I've never had a battered and fried meatball, but these were good! Actually fairly light.
Evening special: wild caught striped sea bass with sunchokes, sauteed butternut squash ribbons, ramp butter and pistou sauce -- I think I have the description right! I had the waitress repeat it once the plate came so I could write it down. Best dish of the evening, by far! The sea bass was seared, and the skin was amazingly crisp, and the fish tender and moist. A wonderful flavor combination when you got a bite with all components -- velvety butter sauce, the al dente squash with it's sweetness, the crispness of the skin with the light sea taste from the fish. Divine.
Desserts: Popcorn and a Movie.... tasty but a bit too minimalist to be truly satisfying. Kind of like caramel popcorn with Kit Kats.
Fried brie, apple compote, pomegranate gel, pine nut crunch ice cream. This was probably my second favorite dish of the evening. The brie and apple combo was yummy and the pomegranate a nice, bright flavor contrast.
Our lead waitress was quite knowledgeable about the dishes and patient with a group. The staff was a little too efficient in trying to clear plates and drink glasses that maybe hadn't quite been finished yet (like my cocktail).

So, if you've been to Swift's, what dishes did you enjoy (or not) and why? What should I try when I go back?