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With a large patio, innovative cocktails, and delicious food, Contigo’s the new happening joint in the Mueller area

After a lazy Sunday afternoon of lounging with Thomas and Jamie Lee, our bellies began craving food.  Since no one had to work on Memorial Day, we decided to continue the festivities at the newly-opened Contigo, right next to the Mueller development.  One of Thomas’ close friends from San Angelo, Andrew Wisehart, is the executive chef at Contigo, where we met another of our mutual friends, JT, at the restaurant/bar.

Most of the seating at Contigo is outside, where the magnificent, wooded, dog-friendly patio features plenty of picnic-style tables.  The place is perfect for large groups to come for happy hour to enjoy the great weather and then linger over the excellent cocktails and delicious culinary creations.

For drinks, Contigo offers an assortment of cocktails and draft beers.  Shannon and Thomas each started with an El Pepino, which combined tequila, cucumber water, mint, and lime.  The end result was a refreshing treat that resembled a mojito — only better!  Meanwhile, I opted for the Contigo Ranch Swizzle, which featured tequila, mescal, tangerine, lime, and soda.  Although I enjoyed this concoction, whose flavor had hints of smokiness (from the mescal), El Pepino was the superior cocktail.  Later on, I ordered an El Jefe (recommended by JT).  The stiffness of the bourbon was counterbalanced by lemon and ginger brew, along with a fresh luxardo marischino cherry.

In terms of food, Wisehart designed a menu of small plates that accentuate the variety of beverages.  The food is also locally sourced, which seems to be part of an encouraging trend during these environmentally-conscious times.  Although Contigo will definitely attract groups who linger over their drinks, the outstanding food guarantees that you won’t have to go elsewhere to fill up.

We started with some bar-menu items like the olives and pickled beets.  Both were the caliber of a gourmet restaurant, as the olives sat in an oil that had been dressed up with peppery spices, while the beets were accompanied by a creamy white sauce called grabiche.  Although there aren’t any fish items on the regular menu, there’s a rotating pesce option, which happened to be a shrimp dish on this night.  The shrimp were served in a small skillet with a creamy broth that begged to be sopped up with the fresh bread that came with the plate.  We also thoroughly enjoyed the Texas okra, which were grilled and served with walnuts and cherry tomatoes.

As my main dish, I opted for the daily sausage, which is made in-house.  I can’t remember what type of sausage they served on this Sunday, but it changes everyday.  The sausage sat on a baguette and was served with house-made mustard and sauerkraut.  The sauerkraut was outstanding.  Fries also come with this dish, and they were a perfect crispness.  I didn’t even need ketchup.  Meanwhile, Shannon opted for the grilled cheese, which proved to be a decadent delight, as the thick brioche enveloped a heaping portion of creamy, artisanal cheeses.

I can’t say enough good things about Contigo, and it’s likely going to become a regular hangout on Fridays after work.  With delicious cocktails, a wide-selection of microbrews, and a variety of plates to keep our tummies full, it’s a welcome addition to the Central Austin dining landscape — with the added bonus that you don’t have to compete with downtown traffic to get there.

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Vespaio’s still a happening spot on South Congress, but be prepared for your pasta to be drowned in butter

Shannon and I decided to spend the evening on South Congress Avenue on Saturday night.

We started with some finalizing of my Halloween costume by shopping at New Bohemia, where the wide assortment of used, vintage clothes gave me plenty of options for my 1930’s era look (you’ll have to wait until Halloween to see the final product).  Shannon’s cousin, Taylor, and her boyfriend, Andrew, accompanied us, and they found a great suit for his costume.  I highly recommend that anyone looking for old-school clothing go to New Bohemia, where one of the employees, Marlee, specializes in outfitting customers for Halloween.  She was very knowledgeable and sharp.  We couldn’t have asked for a better person to assist us.

Afterwards, Shannon and I entered the nearby Vespaio, which is usually buzzing on a Saturday night.  But the wait was only about ten minutes on this evening because so many Austinites were in Dallas for the Red River Shootout between the Longhorns and Sooners.  The restaurant was still crowded, but it didn’t have the packed-in feel that it usually does on a weekend, when the wait for a table often exceeds an hour.

The dining area consists of a wooded, open room, where you can see the kitchen through an opening in the back wall.  The interior reminded Shannon of some restaurants she’d visited in Italy two summers ago.  While the sounds of a vibrant restaurant definitely reverberated through the place, it was still possible to converse with your date without having to raise your voice too loudly.

We began our meal with a bottle of chianti classico from San Fabiano, which is a vineyard in central Italy.  The wine was medium-bodied and spicier than the usual chianti, with earthy tones at the back end.  We enjoyed it very much, although it reminded me more of a tempranillo.

For starters, we had some antipasto selections: the marinated button mushrooms and the mozzarella plate.  The mushrooms had been marinated in a balsamic sauce, and they turned out to be quite tasty, with the balsamic flavor infused throughout.  The mozzarella plate was also very good, as the cheese was freshly-made at Vespaio.  It was soft, smooth, and creamy.

For an appetizer, we shared an order of the “Vongole Alla Posillipo,” which is little-neck clams steamed with tomatoes, capers, garlic, oregano, chile flakes, and white wine.  The chile flakes imparted a great deal of spice, and even though I usually love spicy dishes, I think that the cooks went a little overboard here, as the chile drowned out the other Italian flavors.  The clams were tender and tasty, but the sauce makes or breaks a clam or mussel dish.  Shannon fittingly remarked: “They’re nothing like Wink.” I agreed.

For her entrée, Shannon was seeking a vegetable-laden pasta dish with a cream-based sauce.  The most fitting plate that she could find on the menu was the “Spaghetti Alla Carbonara,” which consists of crisp pancetta, scallions, and pecorino romano in cream sauce, topped by a poached egg.  Of course, being a vegetarian, Shannon asked for it without the pancetta, but the end result was nothing like the healthy primavera dish that Shannon had originally sought.  Instead, the spaghetti was drowned in a rich, butter-laden cream sauce, and the poached egg only added to the overall excess of the dish.

Meanwhile, I chose the “risotto of the day” from the menu of nightly specials, and on this night, it consisted of shrimp stirred in with the risotto, which was then topped by a soft-shelled crab (my mom’s favorite).  The crab presented a bit of a dichotomy, as the center had been lightly battered and consisted of mostly tender crab meat, but the legs were so heavily battered that each bite tasted more like fried dough than crab.  Although the risotto was properly cooked to an al dente consistency, this dish had also been infused with so much butter and heavy cream that my stomach told me to stop eating about halfway through.  Personally, I feel that there’s something to be said for creating tasty concoctions without an overuse of butter, oils, and creams, but Vespaio’s chefs apparently disagree.

I had a great time eating out with Shannon at what’s become an Austin institution, but I’m afraid that there’s very little culinary innovation going on at Vespaio these days.  As a frequent diner in this city, I expect fresh, unique flavors, where you don’t feel weighed-down after eating your entire plate.  A great Italian meal doesn’t have to be as heavy as the one we were served on Saturday night.

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Excellent wine, decent food, and great service make Max’s Wine Dive a perfect place for a romantic evening downtown

On Friday night, Shannon and I enjoyed a “date night” at Max’s Wine Dive.  Max’s has a special place in our hearts since it was the site of our first date eight months ago, making this return visit a celebration of the special, loving bond that’s built up in the meantime.

As we sat down in this hip, bustling downtown spot, we reminisced a bit about our first date, when we hadn’t made reservations and were lucky enough to be seated at the bar.  This time, we were at an actual table, and we ordered two glasses of a sparkling wine, Chandon Etoile Rose, as bubbles seemed appropriate for this festive occasion.  The wine was excellent, with subtle hints of strawberry, a certain smoothness at the mid-palate, and a dry, crisp finish.

We enjoyed the sparkling wine with a cheese plate, which consisted of slices of blue, manchego, and brie.  The blue was our favorite, as it was topped with honeycomb whose sweetness perfectly complemented the salty cheese.  The manchego was a harder, mild cheese, which was accentuated by a topping of raisins that had been soaked in cherry vinegar.  We thought that this cheese would have been top-notch if it had been a bit sharper, and that would have proved a more intriguing flavor contrast with the raisins.   Finally, the brie was a bit of a disappointment, as it was topped with a kalamata olive tapenade that lended an oily texture to the cheese, which detracted from the sweet creaminess of the brie.

(from left to right) the brie, manchego, and blue

By this point, we were ready for another glass of wine.  Max’s Wine Dive has a unique policy whereby diners can order glasses from any bottle on the list, as long as you commit to at least two glasses.  Shannon and I had experienced this excellent deal on our first date, when we ordered the Luke Donald Claret, and while it was certainly enticing to repeat what works, we ventured outside the box with an Argentinean red wine, Dolium “La Terna,” which is a blend of malbec, tempranillo, and cabernet sauvignon.  As you can imagine, this turned out to be quite a bold wine, packed with earthy flavors.  The hue of the wine is an intense violet; aromas of tobacco and coffee warn the drinker to be prepared for a dynamic confluence of flavors.  Indeed, “La Terna” carries an excellent structure, with spicy undertones and a lasting finish.

Shannon enjoyed the Wild Atlantic Salmon entrée between sips of “La Terna..”  The pan-roasted salmon was topped with an assortment of delicious mushrooms: sautéed shiitake, oyster, and hen of the woods.  These mushrooms were almost as prominent on the plate as the salmon, and a citrus beurre blanc complemented the flavors with a light zinginess, as opposed to being overly buttery.  My one critique is that the salmon was a tad dry from being slightly overcooked.  (Click here for other ways to prepare salmon).

Meanwhile, I chose the shrimp and grits, without the bacon that usually comes with it.  Six medium-size shrimp and a pan-fried grit cake sat in a bowl of buttery broth.  The grit cake was the highlight, as it mixed very well with the broth, creating a moist, buttery treat that was never too soggy.  The shrimp weren’t bad, although there’s not much original about combining shrimp with a butter sauce.  Two large slices of ciabatta bread accompanied the meal, and they proved to be essential for dipping into the butter sauce, as the plate wouldn’t have been very filling without these additional carbohydrates.

Finally, we couldn’t leave without sampling the desserts.  I was attracted to the bread pudding, while Shannon craved the Big Ass Brownie.  Alas, the menu offered the “half and half,” which is a combination of both that’s presented quite attractively, with each half topped with a generous scoop of Amy’s ice cream (dark chocolate on the brownie and Mexican vanilla on the bread pudding).  The chocolate brownie featured a spicy kick, as it’s cooked with a bit of ancho chile pepper.  On the other half of the plate, the bread pudding consisted of a white chocolate brioche soaked in custard before being baked; the end result was moist and rich.  I thoroughly enjoyed the contrasting flavors of the white chocolate in the bread pudding and the dark chocolate in the brownie.  We also shared a glass of ice wine, which was strong and sweet, with a subtle flavor of tangerine bursting through before finishing cleanly.

Max’s Wine Dive is a romantic place for drinking a variety of types of wine, along with enjoying some good food.  The service was also excellent, as our waiter was knowledgeable about the extensive wine list, and he was attentive without ever making us feel rushed.

Plus, Max’s will always have a special place in our hearts as no couple can ever forget where their love began its blossoming journey.

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Avocado margaritas and outstanding Tex-Mex cuisine make Curra’s one of Austin’s best casual restaurants

Last Saturday, Shannon and I were laying by the pool with our friends Ash and Jordan, when pangs of hunger suddenly struck me around 4 pm.  Shannon and I discussed food options in earnest, with us finally settling on ordering a pizza when we returned to my apartment.  But Jordan then mentioned Curra’s, which is nearby, and as she started gushing over the shrimp flautas, we knew that a change of plans was in order.  Jordan and Ash had to leave for a wedding at around 6, but realizing the uncertainty of the food quality at such events, they opted to join us.

After arriving at Curra’s, which is located about a mile west of I-35 on Oltorf, we all enjoyed a round of Curra’s best beverage: the frozen avocado margarita.  Everywhere else, I order my margaritas on the rocks, but not at Curra’s.  The avocado margarita tastes like a smoothie, with the subtle flavor of avocado mixing fantastically with the tequila.  Usually, I don’t like frozen fruit margaritas (e.g., strawberry, peach, etc.) because they’re just too darn sweet.  But avocado isn’t a sweet fruit, and it adds such a smoothness to the drink that I slurped mine down like a milkshake.  Before I knew it, I was already done with my first drink while everyone else had at least half of theirs left.  As a result, I had to order a second one.  They’re really that good!

After indulging in some chips and salsa, it was time to order the main course.  At first, I couldn’t decide between three of my favorites: the cochinita pibil, the carnitas, and the mole enchiladas.  But since I hadn’t dined at Curra’s in over a year and I’d been craving their excellent mole sauce, I decided that I should probably go with the latter choice.  Also, both the cochinita pibil and carnitas are pork dishes, and I could still fulfill my pork craving by ordering it as the filling in my enchiladas.  On the menu, the pork filling’s actually called “chilorio,” which just means that the pork is fried in a chile sauce.  The chilorio was tender and juicy; plus, the enchiladas were packed with the meat, as Curra’s certainly doesn’t skimp on ingredients like the overrated Guero’s.  But the highlight of the enchiladas was certainly the mole sauce, which features notes of chocolate and a subtle peppery bite.  It’s such a unique flavor that it’s hard to describe, and I definitely recommend everyone trying it at least once.

Meanwhile, Shannon and Jordan both enjoyed the shrimp flautas, which have the bonus feature of being gluten-free (for Jordan’s sake!).  This plate comes with three rolled, deep-fried corn tortillas that are filled with shrimp, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and goat cheese.  An avocado sauce mixes nicely with the goat cheese to produce an excellent flavor that’s especially enjoyable with the fresh shrimp.

Finally, being the little boy of the group, Ash chose the “Junior” version of the tamale plate, which comes with four instead of the usual six.  Kidding aside, the “Junior” plate still requires a hefty appetite, as the tamales are huge at Curra’s.  Again, this is not a place that skimps on ingredients.

Although Curra’s has been around for over 15 years, it’s not showing any signs of complacency.  For excellent Tex-Mex food at a reasonable price with quick and attentive service, head to Curra’s.  And try an avocado margarita while you’re there – you won’t regret it!

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Gulf oil spill doesn’t affect Truluck’s, where fresh seafood and excellent service make for a great night out

On Friday, Shannon and I decided to have a date night at the downtown Truluck’s, where my good friend, Luke, had recently become a manager.  After parking our car with the valet, we entered the restaurant, which opens into a swanky lounge featuring live piano music.  A friendly hostess greeted us, and then we shook hands with Luke, who was looking suave in a black suit with lavender shirt and tie.  We were seated at a booth in the expansive dining room, where the acoustics are just right for quiet conversation while retaining the vibrant feel of a happening seafood establishment.

Our waiter, Steven, who happened to have been trained by Luke, helped us select a chardonnay.  After I nixed his recommendations of some of the more expensive bottles, he guided me towards a 2007 J. Lohr, which is from the Arroyo Seco vineyards of Southern California.  The wine features a touch of acidity and minerality at the front, with a soft, creamy mid-palate containing notes of ripe fruit, and a clean, refreshing finish.  Shannon and I enjoyed it immensely, and the price wasn’t bad at $48.

As we were deciding on appetizers, Steven announced that Luke had ordered us a “chilled seafood tower,” which is one of Truluck’s signature appetizers where diners get to pick assorted raw and cold items.  “It’s good to know people,” Steven said, referring to our luck in getting the VIP treatment.  When the tower arrived, Shannon and I were delighted, as it contained four jumbo shrimp and four Rhode Island raw oysters surrounding a bowl of lump crab meat.

Dry ice created a steaming effect that Luke described as the “David Copperfield touch.” The tower was also accompanied by horseradish, cocktail sauce, and honey mustard for the crab.  All of the items were fresh and delicious, with the lump crab meat being my favorite, especially with a dollop of the mustard.  Shannon’s favorite was the shrimp, which exhibited a firm, meaty texture – just like chilled shrimp should taste.

Before enjoying our entrees, we talked to Luke for a bit about various topics.  He explained that the Gulf Coast oil spill hasn’t adversely affected the restaurant as much as you’d think, as Truluck’s only purchased about 25% of its seafood from the Gulf before the accident, so it wasn’t hard to shift the orders to other coasts.  I also wanted to know how Luke retains his swagger when his job duties include appeasing unhappy customers.  Luke comically explained that he’s still able to throw in some personality; for example, if someone complains about slow service (when it’s not abnormally so), Luke might say: “If you’re not used to this type of dining experience, then maybe you should try the Spaghetti Warehouse down the street.”  Just kidding, Luke would never be that rude.  And if he was, he’d choose a customer who wouldn’t quite grasp the touch of irony in his voice.

For Shannon’s main course, she chose the halibut, which was sautéed and sat atop a creamy green sauce with a side of spring vegetables.  This was a meaty cut of the halibut that’s a chewier, heartier version than what she’d had at Wink and Backstage recently, but Shannon enjoyed it very much, as the fresh fish was definitely tender with a subtly sweet flavor.

Meanwhile, I chose the miso-glazed sea bass, which exhibited an Asian flare with the sweet, soy-based sauce complementing the tender and moist fish.  It was accompanied by cucumber slaw which added to the Asian-inspired presentation, along with a delicious crab-fried rice whose spice seemed to be influenced by the Cajun style.  I highly recommend this dish, as it’s quite a fusion of culinary elements.

We’ll definitely be going back to Truluck’s to try some of the other seafood creations on the menu.  With excellent service, fresh flavors, and a comprehensive wine list, it’s a great place for a night out with someone special.

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Uchi continues to draw crowds with its unique and delicious sushi offerings

For Shannon’s birthday, I took her to one of her favorite restaurants, Uchi.  Because it was a Tuesday night, I didn’t think there’d be a wait, but all the tables were full when we arrived at around 6:30.  It wasn’t jam-packed in the waiting area like it is on Thursdays through Saturdays, but the fact that there was even a slight wait on an off night is a testament to the popularity of the unique, creative sushi that chef/owner Tyson Cole prepares on a nightly basis.

While we waited, we each enjoyed a glass of the Bouvet, a rosé champagne that’s dry and crisp at the front end, with notes of cherry at the mid-palate, followed by a clean finish.  It was both a refreshing and celebratory way to start the evening.

Within 15 minutes, our hostess reported that our table was ready (despite an initial estimate of a half-hour wait).  We were led to a table for two within Uchi’s chic, bustling dining room, where the walls are decorated with a Japanese-inspired red-and-black pattern, and the subdued lighting creates a romantic atmosphere.

We decided to order glasses of sake, choosing one that’s translated as “Bride of the Fox.” It was described as having notes of cashew, and although I didn’t detect a nutty flavor, the sake was strong and crisp.  The glass was served in a pinewood box, as diners have the choice of pouring the sake into the box, which imparts a piney flavor to the beverage.  As Shannon cleverly said, if you’re an “out of the box” thinker, you might enjoy savoring your sake from within the box.  But we found that we created a bit of a mess during the transfer, so we chose to stay in our figurative box by drinking it straight from the glass.

Our friendly and knowledgeable waiter, Ryan, suggested several of the “Tastings,” and we took his advice with our first two selections.  The maguro sashimi and goat cheese was brought out first, and it turned out to be our favorite dish of the night.  The big-eye tuna is accompanied by apple slices, goat cheese, and pumpkin seed oil.  The combination of these flavors was out of this world.

The next “tasting” was the machi cure, which consists of maplewood-smoked baby yellowtail tuna, accompanied by yucca chips, asian pear, almonds, garlic brittle, and yellow caviar.  Ryan suggested that for each bite, we top all the ingredients on a yucca chip so that the full assortment of flavors could be enjoyed at once.  The result was a tasty treat, although it didn’t blow us away like the first dish.  The yucca chips resembled potato chips in taste and texture, although they’re not quite as greasy.  While they’re quite good in their own right, I thought that the salty chips overwhelmed the other elements in the dish.

Next, we selected one of the night’s specials, the Chesapeake Bay soft-shell crab.  My Mom’s from Maryland, the home of the Chesapeake, and she was actually visiting her family there on this night, so this choice was a bit of a salute to her, as she’s a huge fan of soft-shell crabs.  And it didn’t disappoint.  The exterior of the crab was slightly crunchy with moist and tender meat on the inside.  Complemented by an African curry sauce, the dish was finger-licking good.

By this point, we’d run out of our sake, so we ordered glasses of the Girard chardonnay, which is from the Russian River Valley.  In terms of price, it’s comparable to the Patz and Hall (from Napa) that we’d enjoyed at Wink, and Shannon found herself contrasting the two.  The Girard has more of a sweet, melon flavor at the front end, while the Patz and Hall features crisp, apple tones.  Shannon definitely preferred the crisper flavor of the Patz and Hall compared to the sweetness of the Girard, which was almost overwhelming on her palate.  The Girard also has more of a buttery finish, while the Patz and Hall ended more cleanly.

Still, it’s worth noting that Uchi has made great leaps in terms of its wine list in the last few years.  I remember the days when they only had about ten wines to choose from; now, they offer about 25 white wines and 15 reds, with almost half of their bottles being available by the glass.

You can’t leave Uchi without sampling some of their excellent rolls.  Our first selection was the biendo, which consists of tempura-battered tiger shrimp wrapped in rice paper, topped with frozen grapes and a Vietnamese vinaigrette.  Accompanied by a spicy Thai chili oil, we enjoyed this rice-less roll.  It wasn’t my favorite, but I definitely appreciate the creative twist on a spring roll, especially the unique use of frozen grapes.

For our next roll, we enjoyed my personal favorite, the Shag, which is a tempura-fried roll of avocado, sundried tomato, and salmon.  It’s served warm and accompanied by an excellent squid ink sauce that’s artistically decorated along a rectangular, wooden serving board.  The cool, slightly tangy ink sauce perfectly complements the flavors of the warm roll.

We didn’t sample desserts on this evening because we had birthday cake waiting back at Shannon’s house (although Ryan generously offered a free dessert when he found out it was her birthday).  That’ll be an excuse to head back to Uchi sometime soon, as it’s definitely ranked right next to Wink in terms of my favorite restaurants in Austin.

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Vino Vino offers great wine values, although the food is a bit hit-and-miss

Last night, I joined Shannon and her mom, Betsi, for some wine and appetizers at Vino Vino before they headed off to the Van Morrison show at Bass Concert Hall.  Vino Vino was only about half full on this Friday evening, so there were plenty of available tables in the expansive, open wine bar.

After greeting us, our server explained the way Vino Vino works.  The menu lists all of the available wines by the glass, but there’s no list of bottles.  Instead, the bottles line the back wall, along with descriptions on notecards.  You can either browse the available wines yourself or have the server guide you through the selections.  I kindly informed her that we’d need a few minutes to makes some decisions.  At this point, she became a bit rude: “I know that — just wanted to say hello…” I was a little taken aback to get attitude from her since I was being pleasant when I told her that we need more time to look over the menu.

As Shannon and Betsi decided on some food choices, I scanned the wine selections that were immediately behind me.  These happened to be from Italy, and since I didn’t feel like walking up and down the restaurant in order to look at the other regional options, I decided to stick to the ones that were in my immediate vicinity.  A Rodano Chianti Classico caught my eye, so I ordered that from the manager who came by to take care of us (perhaps, our waitress was neglecting us after my “rude” comment about needing more time).  The manager was obviously educated in the wine offerings, as he explained the history of the winemaker, along with the difference between this chianti and another Rodano that the establishment serves, the Poggialupi: although they’re both made of the same grapes (sangiovese and merlot), the chianti classico is aged in oak barrels for two years, which contributes to the oaky finish of this delightful wine.  Meanwhile, the Poggialupi isn’t aged in oak at all, as this label was created by Rodano in order to have more wines immediately available (it can be bottled and distributed without having to wait for any aging process).  And what makes a chianti a reserve?  It simply means that the wine’s been aged for three or more years.  The Rodano chianti classico was medium-bodied, and we agreed that it was an excellent wine, especially for the price (just $30).

We also selected various food items to share.  The shrimp consisted of four large ones in a tasty chili oil and garlic concoction.  They were definitely a better choice than the “mussels and fries.” Although the mussels were properly cooked in a decent white wine and tarragon sauce, the fries seemed out of place sitting atop the mussels.  This led to the fries easily getting soggy, which wasn’t the worst problem considering that the white wine sauce was tasty.  Instead, the issue was that the fries were topped by a thick aioli sauce that gradually mixed in with the broth, creating clumps of white goo.  I usually like to scoop the tasty soup after eating mussels, but the aioli just wasn’t meant to be floating around in it (there was a bad flavor contrast, along with an unappetizing appearance).

A beet salad made up for the mediocre mussel dish, as it featured a flavorful combination of pistachios, beets, grapefruit, avocado, arugula and a light dressing.  For a cheese plate, we enjoyed the Roaring 40’s blue, which has an intensely salty flavor and creamy texture.

I’d love to come back to Vino Vino some day when I have plenty of time to peruse the wine selections and maybe try some of their larger food plates.  I think that having an actual bottle list might make it easier for browsing purposes, but I understand that restaurants often need some type of unique gimmick that sets them apart.  Still, Max’s Wine Dive is probably my favorite wine bar in Austin, with its unbeatable policy of allowing any bottle to be offered by the glass as long as you commit to ordering two glasses.

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