Lindsay and I were recently invited to eat at Trace Restaurant located in downtown Austin in the newly opened W hotel. They had just hosted a blogger event and graciously offered us a $100 gift certificate to come back even though we couldn't made it. The ambiance was quiet and sophisticated, but with a very comfortable feel. High-backed velvet booths lined the walls and warm light shone from the corners of the ceiling on to the white chairs in the middle of the room. It was a quiet evening with only six other tables eating with us, and even though the music was soft, it was just loud enough to prevent us from eavesdropping on our neighbors.
We started off with a wild mushroom and polenta appetizer, which featured a farm-fresh poached egg. The egg was perfectly cooked and the creamy yolk really enhanced the polenta, but somehow the mushrooms fell a little short. We both liked it, but felt that the mushroom flavor was nothing out of the ordinary.
From there Lindsay ordered the crispy snapper while I had the rabbit pot pie. The snapper was decent, but best part about the dish was the pistachio pesto it was resting in. Despite the pesto, we both agreed that the rabbit pot pie was the better choice. The crust on top was moist and doughy with a beautifully glazed golden brown color. The filling was not creamy at all, but a delicious mix of garden greens and rabbit that wasn't dominated by too many carrots or celery.
With our meal we ordered two sides: crushed potatoes with garlic, and fried olives. Neither side impressed us, and we both felt that with an appetizer our sides weren't really necessary. The potatoes were good, but a little plain. I think I was expecting them to be a little creamier and more seasoned like a nice hearty mashed potato, but instead it was simply crushed potato with garlic. Lindsay and I had different thoughts about the olives. I thought that the green olive flavor was a little too strong and I simply couldn't eat more than two or three, but Lindsay felt that there was a little too much breading, and so couldn't bring herself to eat that much fried food. Between us we left three or four in the bowl.
We finished with a bourbon and chocolate pecan pie topped with vanilla ice cream with a chocolate swirl in the middle. To call it a pie would be unfair, it was more like a collection of glazed pecan halves bathing in a small chocolate puddle. Delicious.
I was intrigued by the cocktail menu, and managed to fit in two drinks: the tamarind margarita, and the peppercorn martini. Despite the fact that I couldn't find the tamarind flavor, I thought it was an excellently prepared margarita, so no fault there. Likewise I felt the peppercorn martini was dominated by the flavor of the basil leaf floating in it, but I still enjoyed the spicy aftertaste of pepper. We both loved the martini, so much so that Lindsay nearly didn't give it back after I let her taste it!
We both felt a little constrained for choices, especially when it came to picking an appetizer for two. The menu is divided into three sections: "shared", "small plates" and "large plates". Of the three shared options, only one was a small enough to be eaten by two, and of the small plates, 4/8 were either a soup or a salad. There were only five large plates, although two more specials were offered just before we ordered.
Overall we enjoyed many of the dishes, but were nonplussed by a few. The drinks were all well put together, and might make a promising happy hour or brunch. The ticket for the whole meal came out to be $150 for 4 drinks, 1 appetizer, 2 main courses, and 2 sides. A little on the pricey side, but we weren't holding back, and we left quite full.