Review: The Emerald Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Yesterday was my wife’s birthday (her first since we got married), so I wanted to take her somewhere both special and different for dinner. I googled for [romantic restaurants austin] and found a number of sites listing what they thought were the most romantic restaurants in town. More than one of these sites listed The Emerald Restaurant.

Wait a minute, I thought. Isn’t that the Irish restaurant on 71 just west of 620? We pass that place whenever we drive to my sister-in-laws house and always wondered what it was like.

The Emerald Restaurant

It turns out that it’s a rather high end restaurant. I placed a reservation for last night, and let it be a surprise for Shea.

We drove up at our reservation time. The Emerald Restaurant is a replica thatched cottage that really sets an old world atmosphere. It’s quaint, but nice.

The proprietor, Marge Kinsella, showed us to our table and gave us our menus. It was a Tuesday and Austin was in the midst of an ice storm, so there was only one other couple there, which added to the intimate feel of the place.

The wine list was primarily bottles, with the only “per glass” offerings being the house wines. As I don’t drink, and Shea only barely drinks, she had the house red.

We both started with the potato soup. I had heard that it was perhaps the best thing on the menu, and it did not disappoint. It is made with a base of dark meat turkey stock, and is quite rich. One a cold night like last night, it really hit the spot.

Next was the salad course. The greens were nice enough, but like many restaurants, we were not given a choice of dressing. It came with some sort of herb and oil concoction, which Shea didn’t like and I thought was only ok.

Then we got to the entrees. Shea had the beef tenderloin medallions, which were smothered in a truffle mushroom sauce. I had the mixed grill.

The tenderloin was beautifully prepared and cooked to a perfect medium rare. While the mushroom sauce was quite tasty, I didn’t exactly taste much in the way of truffles.

When possible, I like to order something that allows me to try a lot of different things at a new place. The mixed grill offered that.

It included a pork chop, a lamb rib, Irish sausage, some bacon-like pork product whose name I’ve forgotten, a bit of the same beef tenderloin that Shea had, and some blood sausage. All were small potions, but it was still a rather imposing plate.

Ok, let’s go with the blood sausage first. I’d never had it before, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t just a bit nervous.

It wasn’t bad. Certainly a flavor that you’re only likely to truly enjoy if you grow up on it, but I’m glad I tried it. I don’t know that I would order it again, but at least I can say I’ve had it once.

The Irish sausage was a mild link sausage. It tasted nice, but I prefer spicier sausages.

The pork chop was lightly breaded and pan fried. It was wonderful. I could have eaten a plate of those easily.

The lamb was simply amazing. It was served with mint jelly, which I barely touched (and which I usually like with lamb). I wish I could describe it better, but once I had the first bite, I ate it before I took a good look at it. It was just that good.;

Each plate was served with vegetables that include broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and potato. The potato was nice. The rest were, well, British. Having grown up on British food, I can tell you that cooking it to mush is actually quite authentic. I didn’t know what a vegetable steamer was until I moved out for college.

While these vegetables were not that bad, they were certainly cooked more than I prefer.

For desert, we shared a chocolate heart suffle. It was a heart-shaped suffle, with whipped cream around it. at the top of the heart was a half a tangerine (I think) that had been partially hollowed out, filled with some sort of highly flammable booze, and lit like a candle.

It was every bit as good as it sounds.

I’ll warn you now that if you are looking for speed eating like you find in most Austin restaurants, this is not the place for you. The pace is quite leisurely, which I felt added to the ambiance. We were there for about two and a half hours.

Our bill was about $150 before tip. While one could certainly spend more if one hit the wine heavier or went with the table-side carving specials, it’s really no more expensive than Jeffrey’s or someplace like that. And it’s a lot less expensive than a similar quality restaurant would be in New York or San Francisco.

I expect that we’ll be back, although the price is such that it will only happen on occasion. If you’re looking for a romantic dinner, with a quaint atmosphere and fantastic food, I would recommend The Emerald Restaurant.

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