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What I Ate: October 1, 2009 (Steak 'N Shake, TRIO)

Posted 1 October, 2009 at 11:51pm by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Food, What I Ate)

Dinner: Since this week is GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up, I decided to make a reservation for a restaurant that everyone seemed to be going to: TRIO (98 San Jacinto Blvd, Austin, TX‎ - (512) 685-8300‎) in the Four Seasons Austin. A portion of the proceeds from the GO TEXAN menu at TRIO would be donated to Caritas of Austin, a non-profit food bank. The food on the menu is supposed to highlight Texan ingredients. The meals cost $39 per person and come with appetizer, main, two sides to be shared, and dessert. We tried everything except the Tomato Watermelon Salad and the Richardson's Farm Ribeye Filet.

English Pea Ravioli ricotta, corn puree, smoked maitake This dish was a failure. It was bland overall - the raviolis barely had any flavor and were tough and chewy. The maitake mushrooms (normally a very meaty and flavorful mushroom) tasted watered down and had no discernible smokiness.
TRIO - English Pea Ravioli

Grilled Texas Quail green molé, black garlic arepas, bacon Of all the dishes we had this was the only good one. Well, you could say there were two dishes we liked if you include the sides - the spaetzle with chives was pretty good. The quail was nicely smoked and very tender. The molé matched well with the quail with strong (but not overpowering) cumin and cilantro flavors. The corn and garlic arepa each quail was served on worked well as a stuffing that wasn't stuffed into the bird. (I think they need to work on plating…)
TRIO - Grilled Texas Quail

Rice-Flaked Gulf Redfish ginger-fennel jus This is probably the biggest failure of the night. The crust made of rice flakes was almost genius - providing a wonderful crunchy texture and a nice flavor - but the rest of the dish fell flat. The fish was barely seasoned so it tasted both bland and somewhat fishy at the same time and it was served in what was literally colored water. There was no ginger or fennel flavors detectable at all. The microgreens were dropped on the side of the plate with no seasoning whatsoever… maybe they were going to rely on the ginger-fennel jus for flavor. At some point, the manager was making the rounds and asked how we were enjoying the food. I mentioned the bland ravioli, excellent quail, and the redfish soaking in water. He went to talk to the kitchen and explained that the jus was a bit too strongly flavored in the past and patrons complained, so they dialed it down. He said they might have gone to far and offered to comp one of our meals. I declined saying that we just wanted to provide honest feedback to the restaurant, but he insisted. After we asked for salt and pepper (no pepper grinder at TRIO - we received pretty ceramic shakers) and heavily seasoned the fish, it was much better. This dish has the potential to be really great, but what we got was just plain bad. Tina and I ended up leaving over half the dish.
TRIO - Rice-Flaked Gulf Redfish

Loncito's Lamb Chops black olive oil My lamb chops didn't arrive on the table as the restaurant expected - as it was being placed on the table, one of the chops fell over and the rosemary sprig fell off the center chop and onto the plate. As a rule, I photograph food the way it arrives… so, here it is.
Loncito’s Lamb Chops

The chops were cooked medium-rare but two out of three were tough and chewy and really bland. A chimichurri sauce that was provided with it added a much needed element of saltiness. Other than the texture, the lamb was okay until the plate cooled down (it wasn't hot enough to counter the fairly chilly restaurant) and the lamb fat congealed - then it became kind of gross to eat.
TRIO - Loncito’s Lamb Chops

Heirloom Squash The thinly sliced summer squash was waterlogged. I couldn't figure out why the maitake mushrooms and the squash were both watery, but Tina suggested they might blanch them and hold them for service. It didn't seem to be the right thing for a restaurant claiming to be fine dining to be doing, but until I hear otherwise, I don't have a better theory for why both were waterlogged.
TRIO - Heirloom Squash

Spaetzle with Chives They were out of okra so a spaetzle cooked with minced chives was provided as a side instead. This was one of the two dishes that we really enjoyed.
TRIO - Spaetzle with Chives

S'Mores vanilla bean marshmallow, chocolate ganache, graham cracker ice cream The s'mores was a good try, but not quite successful. The graham cracker ice cream was pretty decent, but the s'more itself was over powered by the chocolate ganache. When the components were tasted individually, they all tasted good - a subtle crust, light marshmallow, and chocolaty ganache. Unfortunately, the ganache was too sweet and too strong. When eaten all together, you just couldn't take the marshmallow at all. Tina also really disliked the sauce it was served with due to its slimey texture and licorice flavor.
TRIO - S’Mores

Trio of Sorbet mango, lemon, raspberry The sorbets were fine, except for the raspberry one which was a bit weird tasting. It couldn't be, but there was something artificial or off about that one. The mango was was really intensely flavored (which was great) but a bit too sweet.
TRIO - Trio of Sorbet

One thing that I can say about TRIO's dishes is that most of them had very generous portions. It's our opinion that they should focus on getting the taste right then work on presentation (this could be helped by adjusting portioning a little - hard to make two large fillets of fish swimming in jus look attractive). Service was quite friendly (albeit awfully slow at times) and they did take one of our orders off the bill (the downside of which was that Caritas of Austin would we receiving only one meal's worth of proceeds. When I said this to Tina she said that I could just make a donation… so I made an online donation when I got home - might as well support GO TEXAN even if the meals weren't so good. Anyway, I'm not convinced that my first GO TEXAN meal at McDonald's is doing any good to the community as I had hoped). Our server also provided complimentary valet parking when I asked her to add the parking to my bill.

Lunch: We ate lunch at Steak 'N Shake. I didn't feel like a burger so I ordered their crispy chicken salad.
Steak ‘n Shake - Crispy Chicken Salad

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