Saturday, July 30, 2011

Wink Restaurant Review

Today Lindsay and I shared our anniversary together. In order to celebrate our two years together as a couple, I took us to Wink, located on Lamar just north of 6th Street. For some reason we hadn't been to Wink yet, despite it being high on our to-do list (and many Best of Austin lists) of date-worthy restaurants for some time. One of the amazing things about Wink is their dedication to fresh seafood and produce from local producers, and their constantly (daily!) changing menu to accommodate the ingredients they have available.

We were still feeling a little full from a slightly-too-late lunch, so we forwent the 5 course Chef's tasting menu for a hand-picked 3 course meal. Narrowing our list down to only 6 unique choices was difficult considering the wide range of options available, but we eventually settled on our decision.

First Course:

Arugula Salad - A delightful starter with oranges and a refreshing lemon cream dressing.

Tuna Poke - Even though this was the first course on the chef's tasting menu, I thought it was a little heavy to start with. The Poke was a bit under-salted, though eaten with the plantain chips it was perfectly balanced.

Second Course:

Dayboat Scallops - Incredibly tender, although a little too salty (even for me) at certain bites. The bright pink prickly pear cactus sauce was a very pretty and appropriately sweet counter-flavor, but we wanted more of it!

Steamed Pei Mussels -An ample bowl of very tender mussels in a white wine sauce with some shaved elephant garlic scattered throughout. I was a little disappointed that the jalapeno flavor didn't shine though more but pleased with the amount of mussels provided.

Third Course:

New York Strip - A thick and nicely cooked grassfed steak, but nothing about the plate really impressed me, with the possible exception of the incredibly flavorful kennebec potatos.

Seared Foie Gras - We both voted this the best plate we had. Served on a slice of brioche with a sweet almond crumble in a pear port reduction on the side. I'm not a huge fan of Foie Gras, so the meat itself didn't excite me (but Lindsay thought it was melt-in-your-mouth delicious), but the brioche provided nice body, and the sweet nuts and pears combined well to make the dish exceptional. The pear port reduction was such a nice sweet contrast, we were one step away of licking it off the plate for dessert!

Overall the waitstaff and ambiance was very good. Our waitress was rather brief and unenthusiastic, and didn't describe the first course she set down, but the front of house manager delivered the rest of the dishes to us with a detailed description and a smile. I received a very considerate confirmation call on the day of our reservation, and despite my failing to mention our anniversary (much to Lindsay's disappointment, they typically make unique menus), they were eager to satisfy my request for a table with some ambient light for pictures.

We were very pleased with our visit, but had a couple of critiques. Even though Wink prides themselves in being an "un-pretentious white tablecloth parlor," we both felt that the decor inside and the external face of the restaurant left a little to be desired considering we were paying $15-$30 per plate. While the ingredients used were highly local and fresh, often the dishes didn't quite come together to give you the "oh my god this is amazing" reaction (more of a "wow this is really good" reaction). I found nothing really wrong with any of the dishes but was only impressed with the foie gras.

We certainly plan on returning to Wink. Their constantly changing menu and intimate atmosphere make for a very romantic date night, but next time I'll be sure to let them know ahead of time what we are celebrating in order to stay out of trouble :)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simply Spiced Salmon and Chickpea Salad AND....

My 3 year blog anniversary! That's right, Apron has come a long way. Now in addition to original recipes, you can sometimes find fun reviews here by my partner in blogging and soon-to-be partner in life, Luke. We've been all a-flurry with wedding planning, not leaving as much time as I'd like for cooking, and even less for blogging! Luckily, simple dishes like the one below have been sustaining me during this stressful but exciting time. Looking forward to the next year of Apron's Adventures!

Simply Spiced Salmon and Chickpea Salad
Based off Cooking Light's Cumin-Spiced Chickpeas and Carrots with Couscous

1 cup chicken broth
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 (15 1/2-ounce) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons canola oil, divided
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 carrot, grated
1 jalapeƱo pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup steamed, chopped broccoli
4 cups warm cooked couscous
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound salmon, skin removed

Whisk together broth, lemon zest and juice and tomato paste in a small bowl and set aside. Heat a large skillet on medium-high heat and warm 2 tablespoons oil. Add chick peas a cook a few minutes until beginning to brown, then set aside on a plate. Heat remaining oil and add vegetables and saute 3 to 5 minutes. Add in cumin, salt and pepper, cayenne and toss to coat. Then add reserved broth mixture and simmer about 3 minutes. Stir in steamed broccoli and remove from heat.

While vegetables are cooking, heat oil in a medium non-stick pan. Combine chipotle powder, cumin and salt and rub over both sides of salmon. Cook salmon in hot skillet about 4 minutes on each side.

Place bed of couscous on each plate and top with chickpea mixture. Top with a piece of salmon and a few dollops of greek yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy!