Day 2: European Bistro

18 Apr

A side

The European Bistro is in Pflugerville and for someone who lives in South Austin (that’s me), it’s a bit of a drive.  So B and I made a plan to carpool to P-ville, since she’s North-Central. Honestly, had the menu not drawn me in with its promise of tasty meats and potato products, I would have nixed it altogether. We drove through Main St. in downtown Pflugerville and see the restaurant in a cute little brick building.  Walking inside, I notice the decor is a mish-mash of stuff.  Some knick-knacks that you would expect and others you wouldn’t, like hearts made out of red-foil tinsel.  Maybe they were Valentine’s decoration rejects? Ken, both our host and server, sat us at a table right next to the dessert case and proceeded to tell us about the place.  They have been around for nine years with this year being their first as an Austin Restaurant Week participant.  The owner/chef is a Hungarian woman who has been cooking for 40+ years, since she was 14. This, I thought, is promising.

B side

Have you ever driven to Pflugerville on a Sunday in the late afternoon/early evening? It’s really…umm… quick. We left at 5:45 for a 6:30 reservation and were cruising into what the locals call downtown at 10 after 6pm. It’s not exactly a hot spot of Sunday dinner activity. Were I a church-goer, I suppose I’d know that Sunday is reserved for the large, stereotypically Southern post-worship meal. I much prefer to attend the church of Sunday Sausage… but I digress. European Bistro has an interesting dichotomy going, in that it’s in a little town square, across the street from a BBQ joint. And the signage is very small town deli. It seems like it’s going to be really straightforward and laid back. You walk in, however, and it’s a lot more elegant than one might expect – two stories, some ornate decor ( I saw no such V-day rejects) and several little alcoves in which couples (or families!) could eat with a smidge of extra privacy. It was virtually empty on this Sunday afternoon, but I was nonetheless intrigued.

What we ate:

The ARW menu was three courses for $25, and we liked this joint originally due to the allure of food from Eastern Europe. Several years ago, we were planning a vacation to the area, but it fell through. We’ve been sad ever since.

Click here to see our options.

One thing not reflected on the menu is the complimentary bread and cheese spread, which arrived after appetizers and before our entrees. It was pretty basic, but don’t for one minute assume that means no good. We had two types of bread – one a hearty brown and the other plain white.  Both were chewy and thick, and could stand up to the three-cheese spread that it accompanied. That spread was beguiling (yep, we said it), and mysterious — at first, second and third glance, it looked like pimento cheese. It had that weird orangey color and a similar consistency. A seemed not to mind, but B was slightly-to-moderately freaked out. Pimento cheese has touched her palette just once, and it was one time too many. Just what three cheeses we were eating remained a mystery, but we found out the spread also included onion, caraway seeds and a little paprika, all of which combined for a really nice, unique flavor. We only received four slices and no refills, which is unusual since most restaurants can’t wait to fill you up on bread; but it served its purpose, in that we were  left wanting more (and even more excited about the entrees). As the plate was whisked away, we wondered if they actually sold that spread — if not, they most definitely need to. Like, now.

A side

  • Spicy Uzbekistan samosa with onion, potato, peas and carrots

This reminded me of an Indian samosa with the heat turned down a level – very basic, but very tasty. The only thing I didn’t like was the sauce that came with it.  At first I thought it was sour cream or something similar and took a big dollop with my spoon —  my mistake, because it was a mayo type dip that tasted a little like Miracle Whip.  Blechblechblech.  I hate mayo and Miracle Whip, so that was definitely no good (though my husband probably would have loved it.  He’s a fan of that weird tangy Whip.) I tried one of B’s potato dumplings and it was equally yummy, like a little portable bite of mashed potato in a beefy, mushroomy gravy.  I almost licked the gravy off the plate… almost.  I thankfully remembered we were out in public, which forced me to be relatively civilized.

  • Chicken kiev with rice and medley of peas, carrots, and onions

The menu description was very intriguing.  It was a breaded and lightly fried chicken breast stuffed with pineapple and herbs.  Pineapple, really?  Before we even entered the restaurant, I’d had an idea of what I wanted, but I changed strategies and went the chicken and pineapple route — and I didn’t regret it. It was delicious!  The pineapple gave it a little sweetness and I think it also kept the chicken nice and moist.  The rice medley was good, but not anything profound.  The portion was so big that I was able to box up half and have it for lunch the next day.  Two meals for the price of one!  I also tried a bit of B’s knockwurst and German potato salad.  Both very good, especially the potato salad.  I’m a big fan of German potato salad and this one was definitely worthy of my fandom.

  • Walnut chocolate crêpes

I got fire with my dessert!  Yay me!  But seriously,  these crepes were filled with walnuts and raisins, topped with a chocolate sauce, garnished with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and rum.  That last part was a surprise to everyone but Ken, who presented the plate and immediately set it on fire.  It was good, though I must admit, I was getting to the point of being really full so I don’t think I enjoyed it as much as I should have.

B side

  • German potato dumplings with hunter’s sauce

Here’s something you should know up front; I am a fan of dumplings. More than a fan, actually; if dumplings were a person, I’d stalk them and text incessantly, and send little hand-written notes asking, ‘Do you like me? Check yes, no or maybe.’ No matter what restaurant or culture, if I see ‘dumplings’ on the menu, it’s a pretty good bet that I have had, am having or plan to have them. That being said, ordering these potato dumplings was a no-brainer for me, and my undying affection for dumplings was rewarded yet again. They had the textual consistency of mashed potatoes, but somehow didn’t fall apart when you cut into them. I speculated the chef must have made mashed potatoes, formed the dumplings, chilled them and then cooked them once again — that’s only a guess, though. As far as I know, no actual hunters were harmed in the making of the hunter’s sauce, and as A mentioned earlier, it was quite delicious. Had Ken not arrived, she surely would have been licking the plate. I saw that look in her eye.

  • Knackwurst with German potato salad

It is, once again, confession time. Remember how much I love dumplings? Take that love, multiply it by a billion and square it. Now, add pi. That astronomical number represents about half the amount I love sausage. Of course, a woman in her 30s can’t run around nowadays singing (or writing) about her love for the sausage, so it’s something only those closest to me know…but I have visions of learning to butcher just so I can make my own sausage. I typically don’t go to Wurstfest because I don’t want to embarrass (or bankrupt) myself. So knowing that, again, ordering the knackwurst was a given for me; the veal and pork sausage satisfied to the core, and the potato salad was warm, a little tangy, and so very good. Ken brought a spicy mustard to tie it all together. Much like the previous courses, the entree was simple, but delicious. And isn’t that how food should really be?

  • Austrian apple strudel

I’ll spare you another missive about my love for cobbler and all desserts that are cobbler like. This strudel was interesting — not quite what I was expecting, but very tasty still. When I think strudel, I think of something that would result if a cobbler and a danish had a baby — layers of flaky pastry and fruit, with a sweet glaze of some sort on top. The layers were there, as were the apples (Granny Smith!), but the pastry was restrained in terms of the sweetness, which I was ultimately thankful for, given the heft of the preceding courses. It had a slight cinnamon flavor to it, and was moist due to the apple and their preparation, rather than some artificial sugary glop on top. The fruit was thinly sliced and abundant, and the serving size was ample. I was thankful to have boxed half my entree, let’s just say that.

Postcript

Two points of note that made us say damn:

1. When I received my credit card receipt, Ken pointed out that it also doubled as a coupon — I could return Thursday-Sunday for half off a lunch item (once two were purchased). Yay for savings!

2. As we were wrapping up, Ken brought us the guest book to sign; no big deal, you may think, but he sold it. Yes, it gets you on their email list, which may be a pain in the ass for many, but your signature also automatically enters you into a contest they hold. Once a year, they choose at random one name, and that person (and three friends) wins a 7-day stay at the owner’s condo… in Budapest. Holy fracking snikes! We also found out that, once you’re there, the family will take you on tours of the city and drive you anywhere you need/want to go. That’s totally worth my name in a damned guest book.

Final Grade:

A – I will waltz and polka with this restaurant because I adore it so much.  European Bistro earns a very enthusiastic fork up.

B – I think the roaming accordion player should be reserved for busier nights; I was a little afraid she would be like those annoying mariachi bands that don’t leave the table until you’ve paid them. But, overall the atmosphere was nice, Ken was a doll, and the owner – who popped out later to ask how everything was – was very sweet. And, of course, the food was hot diggity and damn. Fork up from me; I’ll definitely be back.

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