Friday, January 8, 2010

Love for La Condesa

Basically anything Rene Ortiz touches is amazing. I love Public, love Odea, and love La Esquina. But I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE La Condesa.

I walked in the door knowing that the “jalapeno drink”, or so it was called by my friend, was one that must be tried. There it was on the drink menu – the Alma Blanca described as habanero-infused simebra azul blanco ,domain de canton ginger liquer, agave nectar, pineapple juice, fresh corn, joja de hierba santa, hibiscus-rose-infused salt rim. Um…yes please.

But then I saw the El Guillermo – fig infused Jim Beam Black, navan vanilla liquer, orange butters, grilled pineapple juice – and I was torn. So I ordered both. And I could not tell you which one was better. It truly is a not better but different situation.

My cousin ordered the Watermelon-elderflower martini - Tito’s vodka, st germain elderflower liquer, agave nectar, citrus and watermelon juice. It was nice but a little too sweet. It would be a great cocktail to round out a meal versus having dessert.

With the drinks at the table, we were still in a quandary over what to order for dinner. Honestly, I wanted all of the entrees but was stuck trying to pick between the Barbacoa de Cordero – Lambchop & Roasted lamb shoulder baked in maguay leaf, esquites, cactus salad and jalepeno-mint recado and the Carne Asada – Oak-grilled ribeye, ensanada red wine butter, fried delicate squash, local radish salad, roasted garlic.

I went with the carne asada and bullied my cousin into having the lamb. With entrees selected we ordered some guacamole with pomegranate and queso fresco (you can also get it with Chipotle and toasted almonds, green apple and crab and, I heard a rumor, they serve it with watermelon in the spring!) and sipped on our amazing cocktails.

The guacamole was fantastic. And never would I ever have thought of adding pomegranate seeds because of the contrast in textures. But the sweet pop actually complimented the smoother avocado texture quite nicely. I usually live by the rule that a simple guacamole is the best way to enhance an avocado. However, I will be breaking that rule and will steal this little addition next time I make it at home.

With not one pomegranate seed left behind, we moved on to the main courses. The carne asada was impeccable. So good that I can’t even remember how the accompaniments tasted. And if I think about it, I can actually conjure up the taste of the sweet and savory beef, which immediately makes me start salivating. The meat was so delicious on its own that I was two-thirds finished before I remembered it came with a sauce. (Which is crazy because we all know that sauce is my favorite food)

The lamb was also delicious though not as flavorful as the steak. However, the esquites, the lamb’s signature side dish was one of the most unusual and delectable dishes I’ve ever tried. It was corn that had been charred, soaked in milk (I think) rinsed to remove the burnt kernels, and mixed with cheese, mayonnaise, and a number of other ingredients I can’t recall. It tasted like nothing I’ve ever tried before but can be best described as a smoky creamed corn with whole kernels and without the thick cream. If you are a vegetarian, ask if you can order this corn dish as a side!

We were too full for dessert, but the selection looked spectacular and will have to be tasted on the next trip. I’m back in Austin in March for two weeks and I plan on visiting them multiple times. Hopefully, I’ll have dessert along with the entire right side of the menu.

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