Monday, April 22, 2013


Parkside was the first of Shawn Cirkiel's three restaurants to open (in 2008), and yet somehow, I am just now finding my way there though I have been to the other two (The Backspace and Olive + June). I met a friend for happy hour last Sunday evening; she, a fellow foodie who has been on numerous occasions. I will still need to get back for a full-on meal, but happy hour was certainly a good start.

I started with a cocktail , the Germain Twist -- Cava, St. Germain, and a little splash of cranberry juice, with a twist of lemon. As I like my bubblies and whites on the sweeter side, this was perfect for me, and I think I need to purchase some St. Germain to recreate this at home.
As you can see below, Parkside offers happy hour daily from 5 - 6:30 pm, and there are plenty of food options that average out to $5 - 6/plate. We picked four different items to share, and told our waiter to just have the kitchen space their arrivals a bit.
The first out was the calamari, dusted with paprika and served with aioli. They were good, but honestly could have been fried just a touch longer to make them more golden and a bit crisper.
The second dish was absolutely the star of the evening -- blonde pate, with strawberry relish and toast points. While the menu didn't say (and more about menu descriptions in a moment), surely this was made from chicken livers...with a whole bunch of butter, cream, and probably some other cholesterol-boosting agents. I know that pates are not for everyone; I have only been a convert in the recent years. This was so creamy and smooth, and devoid of any real liver flavor, that you forgot you were eating liver. I know you can't really see them, but the strawberries were so finely diced and they contained just enough acid to cut the fattiness and richness of the pate to round out the dish. The bread was extremely light, possibly yesterday's brioche that's been very thinly sliced and lightly toasted. The pate would make a lovely sandwich spread, like for a grilled pork bahn mi. I am still swooning over the pate!
This next one is pork rillettes with potato croquettes and strawberry compote. Strawberries again? Well, they are in season in Central Texas, and they were nice and fresh. My dining companion thought the pork wasn't the freshest; it didn't taste off to me, but it did not have a whole lot of flavor. Now the surrounding elements on the plate did -- the strawberries and what tasted like a cranberry compote on the bottom of the plate; the potato croquettes were ok, but apart from not being greasy, there wasn't too much else to them. Unfortunately next to the blonde pate, these really paled in flavor-profile comparison.
Our last appetizer were the crab fritters, that were served with a ravigote sauce, which was a new culinary term for me. In fancy French terms, it's a derivation from a veloute sauce (one of the French mother sauces, made from stock and a blond roux); ravigote adds herbs and acid, and in this example, in the form of lemon zest and juice. Really a lovely sauce. The crab were good, but largely made so by the pop from the sauce.
And then, on to dessert!

Here is the blackberry + hazelnuts which my companion ordered; I had a little bite which I liked, and overall she was happy with it.
And this the coffee doughnuts, which was recommended by our server Eric, over the chocolate three ways. The chicory coffee ice cream was incredible! Such a strong coffee flavor, it made me wonder if the caffeine would keep me awake that night (it didn't). The doughnuts were a little on the chewy side, like the dough got a bit overworked, but the surrounding crumble and tart cherries on the plate were great accompaniments.
My one real critique of the Parkside family of restaurants is the minimal amount of information put forward on the menu about each dish. I am the kind that wants as much menu information as possible so I don't have to ask the server a ton of questions. Looking at the dinner menu, I would want to know how a dish is prepared (fried, steamed, poached, braised, seared, etc.) and you don't always get that info from the menu. Apart from that (and being located on 6th Street), Parkside was a solid experience, and our service was great. While not every dish shined, you can taste the potential, and you see why Shawn Cirkiel is one of the top chefs in Austin.