The creative and diverse crudos, the late night hours, the high-end food in an unpretentious setting- and I didn’t even mention half priced oyster and champagne Wednesdays. Yeah, the place kind of kicks ass.
Then they had this foodblogger tasting event. It left me a bit ruffled and confused. While I can always eat more of Parkside’s food, I’m not entirely sure what the point of it was and it certainly could have used some tweaking in the execution department.
The whole thing started off kind of strange. We were there ostensibly for a happy hour type event. Only they don’t have any happy hour food specials, just drinks. That’s fine, but when I asked to see their drinks menu, the bartender pointed at some bottles behind her and grunted that I was looking at it.
A Manhattan perched on the downstairs bar.
I knew they had specialty house cocktails, but she informed me that they don’t make those upstairs where we had all been gathered. Ok.
She further explained that if I wanted to, I could walk to the downstairs bar, buy them there and bring them back up. Honestly, I could use the exercise. (Later, she told me she had no idea an event was going on and that she could, in fact, make all of the drinks. It’s always good to be warned about a swarm of camera wielding, vittle loving, highly opinionated foodies. Just sayin’.)
Parkside's rockin' upstairs balcony.
We then proceeded to hang out next to a lovely vegan blogger who had been invited but who left early because as it turns out, Parkside wasn’t offering any actual vegan food. Hmm.
Other awkward strangeness was afoot but I’m done bitching. On to the food!
We started with what is certainly Parkside’s strong suit- crudo. All the ones that I’ve tried have been delicious and Chef Shawn Cirkiel is constantly changing up the fish and flavor components.
The Fluke with Lemon and Almond is a staple though. The delicate flounder is nicely enhanced with a little lemon juice and zest, some toasty almond slivers and a judicious sprinkling of chive. There’s a reason he hasn’t taken it off the menu.
Next appeared some Crab Fritters with Sauce Ravigote. The little balls didn’t really do much for me. While they had a nice crab flavor, the outside was over caramelized and they were a little gummy in the middle. The dressing was nice though, kind of like a pimped out tartar sauce.
One of my favorites of the evening was the Green Garlic Soup with Duck Confit. I don’t know if Chef Cirkiel intended it but the dish seemed like a nifty riff on clam chowder. Little chunks of pleasantly chewy duck floated around in an incredibly rich and garlicky potato base. I could make several meals out of just this and I’m totally stealing the idea.
Another great thing about Parkside is that with the exception of their bacon, they make and cure all of their charcuterie in house. They also do the pickling. I’m a sucker for that crap.
The Cotto Salami wasn’t really the best example of it though. The half pork, half beef sausage was well seasoned with clove and black pepper but it was dry and the texture seemed a little mealy. Fortunately, the multihued pickled baby carrots were super tasty so I’ll call it a wash.
Since Shawn is such a fan of raw fish I was pleased to see that his Salmon with Green Beans and Linguisa was only very lightly seared. I feel bad for salmon that gets cooked, but this fish made only a passing acquaintance with the pan.
The locally sourced green beans had a lovely roasty flavor and the lemon and almond helped tie everything together. The star for me though, was the spicy, tangy linguisa. Whatever the cotto salami was doing wrong, this sausage was determined to make up for it. I think I would have preferred a linguisa fillet, topped with tiny pieces of salmon. Um, I guess it might lose something in the translation.
Next, the kitchen busted out some Lamb Belly, a cut that I’ve never had the pleasure of trying. Pork belly has been all the rage for a while now, so it was a treat to get introduced to its succulent doppelganger.
The adorable rolls were served on a sweet potato puree with pumpkin seeds and lots of red onion and cilantro. It’s a fatty dish, sure, but it’s belly people- nobody ordered the boneless, skinless lamb breast.
The meat was incredibly tender and paired nicely with the velvety sweet potatoes. I appreciated the crisp bite of the onion and the bright, fresh cilantro as both helped to cut the rich lamb. The dish also apparently had chili oil in it, but it totally disappeared. A little heat would have been a nice addition.
Ferrying food to the masses.
Bringing up the rear for the savory dishes was Bar Steak with Roasted Mushrooms and Red Wine Sauce. The whole yummy mess was topped off with some crispy fried shallots. I enjoyed this, but since there were no knives in sight I may have enjoyed the spectacle of 20 or so people gnawing furiously at tiny hunks of meat, even more.
Thanks for making me go back for the jus Marshall.
Dessert, courtesy of pastry chef Callie Speer, took the form of what she called Petite Chocolate Crunch. Basically, it was a toothy chocolate mousse on a crispy rice bottom with a little scoop of banana ice cream. Normally, I would tell chocolate and banana flavored anything exactly where it could stick it, but this was surprisingly awesome.
The mousse was light but creamy and was perfectly accentuated by the fresh banana flavor of the ice cream. And the crunchy bits kicked ass too.
At the end of the evening, after most of the crowd had left, the chef popped out to say hello. He seemed a little awkward and stiff but certainly on the nice side. He answered a couple questions and then disappeared as quickly as he’d come. Maybe he’s just not a people person.
That’s ok though. I’m perfectly willing to let his food speak for itself.
Maxing on the patio.
So there you have it. Some of the food we tried is on the menu. Some was on the menu. Some may be on the menu again. None of it is available at happy hour prices. In fact, there’s no such thing. Drinks are half off Monday-Friday 5pm to 7pm. Except for wine. And except for Wednesdays.
And except- you know, just forget it. Go to Parkside because the food is tasty and innovative. You’re not going to get a deal. It’s going to be expensive. Suck it up.
301 E 6th St
Austin, TX 78701
Mon-Wed. 5:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.
Thu-Sat. 5:00 p.m. - 2:00 a.m.
Sun. 5:00 p.m. - 12:00 a.m.