13 September 2010

Hudson's on the Bend

Last night Colby and I made use of our Hudson's on the Bend Groupon deal. The coupon cost $50 for two three course tastings, which would normally be $100. Not a bad deal for one of Austin's most expensive restaurants. We made a reservation for 7:30 and were a bit late because we couldn't find the entrance to the parking lot. Oops. It didn't matter though, because they couldn't seat us right away anyway. They offered complimentary cocktails as we waited, but we declined. Actually, Colby declined and then the hostess ignored me.

When we were seated, the waiter asked if we were here for the Groupon deal. I thought it was pretty tacky. No, we're not 1000 years old and millionaires so, yes, it's likely that we're here for the Groupon, but let *us* tell you, don't assume. I suppose it didn't help that the biggest hipster douche evAr was sitting behind us with his scantily-clad girlfriend. Guilt by age-association, perhaps?

Anywho, first came the complimentary parmesan garlic bread in a tiny cast iron skillet.
The bread was surprisingly sweet. It was served with two flavored butters, one of which was some herb that I can't recall and the other was a chipotle tomato butter. The second one was really good and if you used enough you could ignore the faults of the bread, but the first one wasn't so memorable because it was overwhelmed by the sweetness.

We ordered the lemon saffron lobster risotto with asparagus tips in addition to the tasting menu and that came out next.
This was arguably the best part of the meal. The risotto was cooked perfectly, and the sweetness of the butter poached asparagus and the lobster balanced the lemon with the saffron tying everything together.

The first course came out. Colby got the salad, excuse me tossed garden greens, with a poblano-lime dressing. It was probably overdressed, but the bite I had was good. I got the chipotle lobster bisque, which came to the table disassembled. The waiter poured the bisque into the dish which contained a teeny tiny parmesan puff pastry "crouton" and a pitiful amount of lobster. It was a little awkward and unnecessary for a unremarkable soup.
My lasting impression of this soup was that it was terribly sweet, but still enjoyable.

The main course then came out: espresso rubbed smoked elk with green chile mashed potatoes and a pecan-encrusted ruby trout with like a corn-bread pudding.

The elk was served with a beurre blanc that the waiter brought to the table in a little pitcher which he then poured for us. Again, odd. The elk was, well, smokey. It was good and it wasn't at all what I was expecting. There are few meats I hate more than venison and I was expecting something like that. Instead it was beef-like in texture, but just tasted smokey. The beurre blanc was tasty and paired well with the elk. The green chile mashed potatoes were excellent. There isn't anything about that combination that's not absolutely delicious though, so... :)

The trout was served atop a mango jalapeno aioli and covered with an ancho sauce. The aioli was basically glorified tartar sauce and it was, out of all the out of place sweet aspects of the meal, the most oppressively sweet item. The ancho sauce, however, was very tasty and paired really well with the pecan crust. It's actually a shame that the trout was plated *on* the aioli because the skin+crust was actually really good. The trout was Colby's favorite part of the meal. The corn bread pudding was also sweet, but I guess that's not all that surprising.

The dessert course was next and Colby ordered the Chambord chocolate mousse with legs of fudge. I opted for the warm berry flambe atop homemade vanilla bean ice cream.
The mousse was served in a wine glass and the "legs of fudge" were just hot fudge smeared down the sides of the glass. It tasted like chocolate and that's all I can really say about it.

The ice cream was brought to the table in a martini glass with the berries in a little ramekin that the waiter then poured atop the ice cream. Pour count is up to 3... out of four courses. I guess five if you count the bread. Even still, if you were to hit .600 in a season, you'd be the MVP of the league. Except that pouring soups and sauces isn't the same thing as getting hits in baseball and it doesn't actually make things taste better. Pouring the berries certainly didn't help the fact that the ice cream was... icy. Ice cream should never have ice crystals in it. Either the ice cream wasn't properly chilled when it was made or, more likely, it was allowed to be melted and then re-frozen. Tsk, tsk.

Overall, it was a good dining experience; however, I don't think we'll be returning. Before the Groupon discount, it was a $180 meal for two people. I am totally willing to spend that much on a really special meal, but that meal better have some come-to-Jesus moments instead of instances that just make you go "oh, god".


Michael Chu said...

My visit to Hudson's on the Bend last year was underwhelming. I think four out of the six dishes involved the waiter pouring something (and with enough pouring liquid leftover that I wondered what they were going to do with it). Smokey things were very smokey, flavors weren't well balanced and the staff was ludicrously formal while not being particularly good (obtrusive and at one point ostentatiously offered us a too short straw laid on a folded napkin for the iced tea)

julie k h said...

Yes, I definitely thought that the interaction with the waitstaff was super awkward. I definitely expected a lot more in terms of service and food.

Brad Castro said...

I remembmer that Groupon - I seriously considered it.

I really enjoyed your review - especially the analogy of the .600 batting average.

I also wanted to let you know that I added a link to your post @ http://www.real-austin-texas.com/austin-news.html

Anonymous said...

The hostess was very pretentious, and rude. The owner must not care about the people they employ. The wait staff seemed preoccupied.