Day 4: The Driskill

25 Apr

A Side

To close out ARW Spring 2011, we decided on the historic Driskill Grill, situated inside the Driskill Hotel. The Driskill was built in 1886 and screams classic Texas with its dark wood and leather. It was like we were on the set of Dallas awaiting J.R. We were joined by a fellow foodie friend, L, who is a wacky, but loving mom to an 18-month old. She handed off the kid to her husband to join our twosome and regale us with stories of a 14 oz. porkchop she went to town on at a local steakhouse.

B Side

All who know me know that I hate paying for parking — especially on a week day evening with the sun in the sky. Aside from dumplings and sausage, one of my greatest pleasures is scoring free street parking within a reasonable walking distance to my destination. So, suffice to say, I was late arriving to the Driskill. Still, I’d always wanted to try the Grill, and was excited to arrive. Walking though the hotel, it’s not immediately obvious where the entrance to the restaurant is — if you take a sharp left, you’ll end up at 1886 Bakery (another place hosting ARW). After a few texts to A, I found my way to the Grill, and felt immediately under-dressed.  I was happy to see the host did not, in fact, treat us like low-class street urchins. Nevertheless, one look around told me the only way I could ever enjoy a meal here was choosing off a fixed price menu.

What we ate:

Driskill Grill offered a three for $35 deal, and surprised us all with a little amuse bouche — a lobster hushpuppy. The name makes you love it, and all of us were giddy when it was sat before us (side note: forgive the craptacular photos this round; in the moment, the flash seemed a bit overwhelming and we were paranoid about getting kicked out for being touristy little sea urchins).

The dish was a lone hushpuppy nestled atop a creamy, green-hued sauce and garnished with some chopped tomatoes and micro greens.  The sauce – a creamy spot of goodness, it was – lent some spice and freshness with each bite. The only real downside was the temperature; B’s puppy was cold. Not room temperature or tepid, but flat out cold.

Check out what we had to choose from.

A Side

  • Compressed watermelon salad with Texas sweet onion marmalade, wild boar bacon, wild red currants and Pure Luck feta

This was fantastic!  You would normally equate the month of April with spring, but here in Texas it’s just early summer — in case you’re not from around here, our seasons are really just hot, hotter and holy shit. This dish was the perfect warm weather salad: a little sweet, a little salty and just plain good. And if you’ll recall from my Olivia review, stinky cheese does my heart good when added to a salad; feta is probably my top choice as far as that’s concerned, and I’m quite familiar with the Pure Luck brand. It’s locally sourced (yay!) and I’ve purchased the plain version a time or two at the Farmer’s Market. The Driskill sprinkled an herbed feta on the plate, however, and it was the perfect touch.

  • Blood orange olive oil poached Gulf Coast yellowtail with mountain hedge hogs, fingerling potatoes, swiss chard and Texas Valley lemon butter

I don’t cook seafood at home since it smells up the house a little too much, so I tend to order seafood whenever I’m out, especially when it comes to fish. This yellowtail did not disappoint. I was a little surprised at first to see it served skin on, but it offered a crispy texture that was a nice counterpoint to the rest of the dish. The potatoes had an earthy taste — just the way I think spuds should be. I’m pretty sure I fell into a first degree fish coma because the fish was so buttery and delicious; as a result, I don’t really recall what I thought of the chard, but I’m pretty sure I liked it well enough because at the end of the meal, it was gone.

  • Sansalone’s signature chocolate-raspberry gateau with raspberry crème brûlée, dark chocolate mousse, chambord glaze

When this arrived, I had another one of those ‘this is too pretty to eat’ moments.  Once I cut into it (in the photo above, mine is in the foreground), the layers of brûlée and mousse reminded me of Neopolitan ice cream with the three perfectly proportioned sections of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. While creme brûlée  may very well be my favorite dessert of all time, the raspberry brûlée had a different texture than you might expect; it certainly wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t the smooth, creamy consistency I was expecting. It resembled a mousse much more than a standard brulee. All in all, however, the flavors were harmonious and delicious.

B Side

  • Texas raised rabbit confit with grilled figs, butter roasted heirloom carrots and wild fennel pollen

So, let’s get the ugliness out of the way first; my rabbit – like the hushpuppy before it – was cold. On the good side, it was just room temperature as opposed to freezer burned, but still… not cool, Driskill. Sigh. But with that out of the way, the rabbit itself was quite tasty. It was small, and I very much wanted to pick it up and rip into it like a good piece of fried chicken… but I didn’t want to be that girl. The grilled figs offered a nice sweetness, and the carrots were lovely. Not too soft, not too crunchy.

  • Grilled ‘struberanch’ wagyu flat iron with smoked clothbound cheddar grits, caramelized Texas sweet onions, huckleberry-bourbon jus

Where A wants fish, I want beef — what can I say? This entree melted in my mouth; the wagyu was nice and rare, and the sweet bite from the jus seemed to elevate the meat. It was a bit chewier than I would have liked, but perhaps I’m sensitive to that given a loose crown I have. I loved the presentation as well; the meat sat atop the bed of cheddar grits, which soaked up the jus along with the juiciness of the waygu. I just needed more of it!

  • Strawberry milk custard, strawberry ‘cake’, strawberry-rosewater and vanilla sean marshmallows

Okay, this dessert was weird, flat out. I was backed into a corner of sorts, because I don’t eat chocolate (yes, it’s true… take this moment to absorb and fully comprehend) and everything Driskill offered was, you know, chocolate. Refer up to the dessert photo — mine is the one on the left. The ‘cake’ was meant ironically; there was no actual cake on the plate. Instead, I recollect a cannoli-type thing, with custard filling and diced strawberries sprinkled across the plate. It didn’t offer the sweetness I was looking for, and I have to admit — I stopped for an ice cream on the way home. This just seemed to be a dessert someone made because they could, not because they thought, “Hey, someone out there is going to L.O.V.E this!”

Postscript

Just when we thought we were done, we received a digestif!  As the name suggests, a digestif is served after the meal in order to aid with digestion.  Our server brought out a tray with three cordial glasses and described the evening’s offering – vodka, chocolate liqueur, coffee and macerated cherries.  It was like sipping a chocolate covered cherry dipped in booze.

Final Grade

A -I’m glad we ended with the Driskill Grill because the whole evening turned out to be an event – from the attentive waitstaff, to each course, to sharing an evening with some good friends.  I also want to come back and order off the regular menu because I spied with my little foodie eye a blue cheese risotto.  Fork up for the Driskill Grill.

B – In what will be our first divergence of opinion, I have to call my eating partner totally freaking nuts. While I absolutely loved the dramatic and attentive service — each course was served by three servers, who set our plates down simultaneously — and the creativeness of the menu, it just wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. I wished my amuse bouche and first course were hot, and I don’t think that’s too much to ask. The star was most certainly the wagyu flat iron, but the dessert didn’t hit the sweet spot, and the digestif tasted like someone brewed the morning coffee with white lightning instead of H2O. Like A, I saw some things on the regular menu that could well tickle my fancy, so I’d be game for returning. But I’d definitely utilize their regular prix fixe menu, which is only a few dollars more than their ARW offering. Fork to the side from me.

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2 Responses to “Day 4: The Driskill”

  1. Carol May 12, 2011 at 8:10 am #

    I love it! You are making me hungry and it’s 8 am!

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