Day 1: The Mansion at Judge’s Hill

14 Apr

A side:

After finally navigating the various spots of construction around this place, I took a seat to wait for B.  It was early evening, not too hot, and as it seemed, not too many allergens swirling in the air.  You gotta be careful with allergies here in Austin, they’re like ninjas.  They sneak up when you least expect it. But back to the topic at hand — sitting outside on the building’s wrap-around porch evoked visions of Gone with the Wind and Southern belles.  The Mansion at Judge’s Hill is not only a restaurant, but a hotel and special events venue as well. It’s gorgeous and stately, with large columns out front. Situated near the UT campus, it’s actually much larger than it appears to be from the street. The inside seemed like someone’s grand parlour kicked up a notch or two.

B side:

I was late, as usual; it’s a chronic thing with me, it seems, though this time I can blame my also chronic habit of inadvertently double booking myself. Mister and I had tickets to a show at Antone’s, so I forced him to drop me off and pick me up, so we would only have one car. I’ve wanted to try Judge’s Hill for at least two cycles of Restaurant Week, and was quite excited they let me in looking as windblown and sweaty as I did. As soon as we were inside, though, there was zero doubt why this place sells itself as a premiere spot for romance. Chandeliers, beautiful dark wood, intimate dining room, quite atmosphere — it was very grown-up. I immediately felt out of place.

What we ate:

The ARW menu was three courses for $25, and we both agreed that we chose this spot for the creativity of the menu.

Click here to see our options.

A side:

  • Fried Gulf Shrimp, stuffed with hatch green chili & bacon, chipotle cocktail sauce and a lime wedge

The two shrimp were a good size for an appetizer, but that is probably the only good thing I can say about this course.  The hatch chili completely overpowered the shrimp and I couldn’t even taste the bacon.  Not cool, Judge’s Hill — how can you blaspheme bacon like that?!?  The cocktail sauce was underwhelming as well. I would imagine a chipotle cocktail sauce would be smoky, but I was left smoke-free. I did, however, try B’s appetizer and the flavors were much more balanced.

  • Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope, chicken fried, w/ hatch green chili gravy, tortilla mash and sautéed spinach

B and I ordered the same thing for the sole reason of trying antelope.  My first bite seemed a little gamey but after that, it was just like eating chicken fried steak.  I wasn’t a fan of the gravy, either; again, it just seemed to overpower everything else on the plate.  The tortilla mash was…strange.  It seemed like a grainy and less creamy polenta. Have you ever made polenta? A less creamy version is just corn.   It didn’t taste bad, but I was confused by it.  But I did enjoy the spinach and wished for more greens (along with a little less salt).

  • Texas Tasting Trio of Miniatures

The trio consisted of a chipotle chocolate cake, pecan mini-tart and a raspberry orange cobbler.  The cake was topped with a ganache and decorated with a pecan.  I didn’t eat much of this – too much chile, not enough chocolate flavor.  I also thought it was a little dry.  The pecan mini-tart was topped with a cream, wish I remembered what it was. Obviously, it wasn’t exciting. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the tart, even though pecan pie isn’t typically my thing. It wasn’t sickeningly sweet like I find most pecan pies to be.  The cobbler, meanwhile, tasted like Thanksgiving to me.  It was warm and comforting and the fruit combination made it just interesting enough.

B side:

  • Smoked gouda and poblano soup, with crispy corn tortilla strips and pico de gallo

The description didn’t make any sense to me at all. Smoked gouda equals cheese, equals creamy and smooth. Poblanos, pico and corn tortilla strips scream tortilla soup. What ended up before me was a little spoonful of heaven. If I am allowed to use the word piquant, that’s what this soup was — piquant and creamy, with a nice afterburn of spice. I will say, though, there was no pico to be seen… which, you know, was okay, since I’m not a fan. Still, people; it’s the principle.

  • Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope, chicken fried, w/ hatch green chili gravy, tortilla mash and sautéed spinach

A and I shared a moment of uninterrupted eye contact and then I cut in. I found mine less gamey, but far more chewy — but the gravy helped it along in my opinion. Like the appetizer, though, the menu description was a bit off; hatch green chile gravy leaves the distinct impression that one will see and taste hatch green chiles. What I saw was white pepper gravy… tasty, but familiar. In fact, the entire plate was familiar, in an odd sort of way. The spinach was solid, but the mash resembled a pile of soggy tortillas on the corner of my plate. About halfway through the meal, I took a forkful and asked A, “Wait, what was this again?”

  • Texas Tasting Trio of Miniatures

The trio didn’t leave me satiated or excited. I’m not a chocolate person (hiss, boo, I know), so the chocolate ganache wasn’t exactly in my wheelhouse. Plus, it was cold… like WWE, stone cold. I tapped it with my fork and heard a weird hollow sound; A said it was supposed to be that way, but I thought it came from grabbing a Costco-grade mini-cupcake out of the walk-in. The pecan tart was as good as a pecan tart can be (pecans aren’t my thing, either), but it actually edged out the cobbler for me, sad to say. It was a bit like living in opposite world — cobbler is SO my thing, and I really, really wanted to love it. I liked it, but I wasn’t in love. It was hot (bonus!), but about three degrees too tart for my taste. Guh.

Final Grade:

A – Overall, I’d give Judge’s Hill a fork to the side.  Not great, not horrible.
B – It wasn’t a bad meal while in the midst of things, but I wouldn’t go back for it. Fork to the side.

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One Response to “Day 1: The Mansion at Judge’s Hill”

  1. cyndie May 14, 2011 at 2:20 am #

    i was so excited to see that you were at judge’s hill, but saddened by your review. i fell in love with this place via a groupon. b–i’ll have to drag you back and show you my side of things… the ‘c’ side! <3

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