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Monday, August 10, 2015

Benji’s Cantina

Austin, Texas, USA
Damn Good Tex-Mex
Dined in March 2015



My week of touring Austin was better than I could have imagined, seeing some wonderful sights the city had to offer as well as dining at some fantastic spots. I told my girlfriend who had lived in Austin for nine years that I was looking for a good place to have a later lunch that was traditional Tex-Mex, the real deal. So after touring Mount Bonnell and the Brigadier General John C. L. Scribner Texas Military Forces Museum (fantastic by the way, add this to your list) it was now time for some Tex-Mex at Benji’s Cantina, and I was not disappointed. Great location surrounded by other good restaurants to include Bess Bistro.


Scroll down to read the main review


World’s Top 100 reviewed:

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cape Town, South Africa
Melbourne, Australia
Yountville, Napa, California, USA
Sydney, Australia
Franschhoek, South Africa
Sydney, Australia
Dublin, Ireland
Zuma 
Dubai, UAE
Ripponlea, Melbourne, australia
LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon 
Paris, France
Dubai, UAE


Follow Wine, dine, and Play:


Star ratings chart:

5 stars
Extraordinary  
4 stars
Outstanding  
3 stars
Exceeded expectations     
2 stars
Above average                          
1 star
Average
No star rating
Basic, poor, or appalling 

Review basics:

Overall Star rating by Wine, Dine, & Play:
3 of 5
Quality of food:
7 of 10
Presentation:
8 of 10
Wine selections by region:


Scroll below the main review section to see the tasting notes of the wines chosen.


5 of 10
Old world: 
France
A). Loire: (Sancerre, & Saumur, Vouvray, & Chinon). 
B). Other: Champagne, Lirac,  Languedoc-Roussillon, Côtes de Provence,
Spain:, Ribera del Duero, & La Rioja
Italy: Veneto, Toscana
New World: 
Argentina: Mendoza, San Juan, & La Rioja, Patagonia, Uco Valley, & Northwestern 
New Zealand
A). Marlborough: (Wairau Valley, Awetere Valley, Waihopi Valley)
    California: Sonoma, Napa
Washington State: Columbia Valley
Texas: Texas High Plains,

   “Explore the restaurant wine list

Customer service:
6 of 10
Ambiance:
7 of 10
Corkage fee’s:
American Restaurant standard is $25.00 per bottle
Restaurant style:
Casual
Dress code:
Casual, or Conservative attire
Reservations:
Not Required, But Recommended 
Make reservation through opentable.com, or by contacting the restaurant directly. See contact info below the review section
Walk-in:
Accepted
Child policy:


The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette. Hire a Babysitter. See Alinea Baby Gate, god I love Alinea.
Cuisine style:
Contemporary, Modern, Lounge, American, Tex-Mex, Seafood, Mexican, & Vegetarian
Music styles:
Hispanic inside, and Hip Hop on the patio
Experiences:
Place for foodies, Business parties, Hot spot, Great bar, Great outdoor dining, Good for special occasions, Beautiful décor, Rustic, Trendsetting, Tourist grabber, and a Neighborhood gem.
Gratuities:
Industry standard is 18-20% added to parties of 6 or more
Payments:
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Parking:
Public lot, or Street Parking
Transport options:
Bus, taxi, limousine, personal vehicle, and walking
Wifi
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Medium
Smoking:
Nonsmoking restaurant, and nonsmoking patio
Patio:
Yes

Food price per person 
(Excluding tax & gratuity)


Price chart:
$£€¥ -               Under 50.00 
$£€¥ x 2 -          Under 75.00 
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 

**Currencies chosen reflect the world’s major travelers and restaurant connoisseur’s**

My food bill:
Currency:
Price chart:
$45.00
United States Dollar (USD)
$
£29.00
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
£
€41.00
European Union (EUR)
$59.00
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
$$
$62.00
Australian Dollar (AUS)
$$
¥276.00
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
¥¥¥¥
  

To get up to date currency rates:




Scroll down below the main review to see cost of wines and tasting notes.




From restaurants home page:

Benji’s Cantina offers a fresh, innovative approach to Tex-Mex. An ingenious mix of seafood and Mexican influences dominates the menu. With the house specialty fajitas,we use the best traditional recipes, sourcing the highest quality ingredients available. Our guests can also expect perfectly blended margaritas, an extensive tequila and mescal selection and innovative cocktails. Whether its happy hour after work or your next special occasion, Benji’s has you covered. The downstairs bar and lounge face the bustling street scene, which makes a picture perfect first impression, with community tables that provide ample seating. Located in the lively West 6th street district, Benji’s can also be utilized for private functions and can hold up to 170 people for seated dinner and up to 300 in a cocktail reception style setting.


Main review:

Real Tex-Mex, I had been waiting for so long to try it, and now I was finally here to give it a whirl so to speak. I was a very nice spring day in Austin and after doing some touring, I came across Benji’s Cantina, and sat on their patio to enjoy the nice breeze and temperatures. As in most normal Mexican restaurants the starter included some chips with salsa. Homemade corn tortilla’s and very nice and slight spiced salsa had me either from hunger or just from the sweet taste devouring the entire basket, and requesting seconds as I looked over the menu.

From their appetizer selections it was very hard to choose. Of course they had a Queso dip, guacamole, and more salsa selections, but two things caught my eye, and those being the Japanese Shishito Peppers and the Ceviche del Dia, or Ceviche of the day. The server recommended the Ceviche which for this day was a flounder, with blood orange, ginger, with corn and red onions. Extremely wonderful flavor and great way to start. 

It was mid afternoon and my girlfriend and were planning a dinner, so I didn’t want to eat that much, but the server again sold me on a nice size entree. They had a variety of soups, sandwiches and Especials De LA Casa, and I was nearly sold on the Carne Tacos de Res, until the server said fajitas. Now typically I’m not a really big fajita fan, but had expressed to the server earlier that I wanted the best and most authentic the restaurant had to offer. So with that, under the Fajita Section was a special selection of mix fajitas that had beef, pork sausage, and quail. When you think of fajita you think of basic beef, chicken, and shrimp, but the meat on this plate was much better and higher in quality, and the quail was mouthwateringly good.


The presentation of the dish was in a large black square container with handles on either side and the restaurant logo animal engraved into it. The inside bottom was where charcoals were kept to keep the meat and vegetables sizzling throughout the meal, and be warned not to touch the outside of the container without burning yourself.  The top of the container along the edges had Austin, Texas engraved into it.

The meat was so tender, homemade corn tortillas were provided along with the usual accompaniments of cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Of course I added some guacamole as I love avocado. 



This Restaurant reminds me of:

This was a fantastic experience in Austin Tex Mex, the atmosphere, service, and food stood out for. Most of the meals during my trip to Austin were excellent, but this one will be remembered as being in the top group of favorites. The experience reminds me of two other restaurants in the past that I visited called the Harvest Moon Cafe in Sonoma, California, and Tapas 218 in Canton, Ohio

Other Austin favorites:
Home Slice Pizza
Güero's Taco Bar 
Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar

Visit other Austin Restaurants at OpenTable.com 



Other trending story’s on Wine, Dine, and Play:
Oak Steakhouse, Charleston, South Carolina
Zink Restaurant + Bar, Centennial, Colorado



Restaurant address:
716 W. 6th St.
Austin, TX 78703






Neighborhood:
Downtown

Cross streets:
West Ave & Rio Grande Street 

GPS Coordinates

Latitude: 30.274908
Longetude: -97.760495


Contact Information: 

Maître d, Reservations:
+1 512 476 TACO (7226)
Restaurant Website:
Email:
Online Reservations :
Social Media:


Facebook Link                
Pinterest



Hours:

Lunch: 
Mon-Sat: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm 

Dinner:

Monday
4:00–11:00 pm
Tuesday
4:00–11:00 pm
Wednesday
4:00–11:00 pm
Thursday
4:00–11:00 pm
Friday
4:00–12:00 am
Saturday
4:00–12:00 am
Sunday
Brunch 10:30 - 3:00 
  
Standard Time (GMT -6:00)








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Review by:
Chef Sean Overpeck (CFE)






Chef Sean cooks for soldiers in Afghanistan, 2012:









"Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."






TTFN

Monday, August 3, 2015

Qui Restaurant

Austin, Texas, USA
Upscale Space for Modern Global Plates
Dined on March 24th 2015



In the 6th Street district neighborhood of downtown Austin, there is a vibrant up and coming area with lots of construction projects, but most importantly it has what Austin is known for, damn good food. From Franklin Barbecue famous from the movie Chef to here at Qui, (pronounced Key), a contender to the top 100 restaurants in the United States. This was the second restaurant on two continents that I had visited this month named key, though with two very different spellings. Qui Restaurant here in Austin,  with a very amusingly art designed web page with Estelle Getty from the 1992 movie “Stop Or My MomWill Shoot,” and the second being Quay in Sydney, Australia, a top 100 world restaurant, which Qui is in line to one day becoming, as you will read about on the review below.  


Scroll down to read the main review


World’s Top 100 reviewed:

Chicago, Illinois, USA
Cape Town, South Africa
Melbourne, Australia
Yountville, Napa, California, USA
Sydney, Australia
Franschhoek, South Africa
Sydney, Australia
Dublin, Ireland
Zuma 
Dubai, UAE
Ripponlea, Melbourne, australia
LA TABLE de Joël Robuchon 
Paris, France
Dubai, UAE


Follow Wine, dine, and Play:





Star ratings chart:
5 stars
Extraordinary  
4 stars Outstanding  
3 stars Exceeded expectations     
2 stars Above average                          
1 star Average
No star rating Basic, poor, or appalling 


Review basics:

Overall Star rating by Wine, Dine, & Play:
4 of 5
Quality of food:
9 of 10
Presentation:
9 of 10
Wine selections by region:


Scroll below the main review section to see the tasting notes of the wines chosen.


8 of 10
Old world: 
France
A). Bordeaux: (Haut Médoc, Cotes de Castillon,  Médoc, Pessac Leognan, Sauternes, St. Estèphe, St. Julien, St. Émillion, Pauillac, Pomerol, & Margaux).
B). Loire: (Sancerre, & Saumur, Vouvray, & Chinon). 
C). Other: Côtes du Rhône, Champagne, Languedoc-Roussillon
Spain: La Rioja
Italy: Piemonte, Venezia, Veneto, Toscana, Abruzzo
Germany: Mosel
Austria: Kamptal, & Wachau.
Portugal: Douro Valley
Greece: Peloponnese
New World: 
Argentina: Patagonia
Australia: Tasmania
New Zealand
A) Marlborough: (Wairau Valley, Awetere Valley, Waihopi Valley)
California: Sonoma, Napa
Oregon: Willamette Valley 
Michigan:
Japan: Yamanashi

   “Explore the restaurant wine list

Customer service:
8 of 10
Ambiance:
8 of 10
Corkage fee’s:
No outside bottles allowed
Restaurant style:
Semi-formal dining
Dress code:
Business casual, or Conservative attire
Reservations:
Required
Make reservation through opentable.com, or by contacting the restaurant directly. See contact info below the review section
Walk-in:
Accepted, but not guaranteed
Child policy:


The Restaurants reviewed on this site may have a child’s menu or cater to them; however for full enjoyment of food and wine, it is recommended for children not to be in attendance, unless they have been trained in proper etiquette. Hire a Babysitter. See Alinea Baby Gate, god I love Alinea.
Cuisine style:
Contemporary, Bistro, Modern, Seafood, American, Southern, French, Organic, Mediterranean, International, Fusion, Vegan, & Vegetarian
Music styles:
Background instrumental
Experiences:
Place for foodies, Business parties, Romantic, Hot spot, Great bar, Great outdoor dining, Good for special occasions, Beautiful décor, Intimate, Classy, Upscale, Trendsetting, and a Neighborhood gem.
Gratuities:
Industry standard is 18-20% added to parties of 6 or more
Payments:
Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express
Parking:
Street Parking
Transport options:
Bus, taxi, limousine, personal vehicle, and walking
Wifi
The restaurants reviewed on this site may have Wi-Fi, but do not require you to go online, because the excitement of the food and wine alone will keep you too entertained instead of checking your social media and emails.
Noise level:
Low
Smoking:
Nonsmoking restaurant, and nonsmoking patio
Patio:
Yes


Chef:
Paul Qui


Chef de Cuisine:
Jorge Hernandez


Food price per person 
(Excluding tax & gratuity)


Tasting Menu $65.00
Vegetarian Tasting Menu $55.00

Price chart:
$£€¥ -               Under 50.00 
$£€¥ x 2 -          Under 75.00 
$£€¥ x 3 -          Over 100.00 
$£€¥ x 4 -          Over 200.00 
$£€¥ x 5 -          Over 400.00 

**Currencies chosen reflect the world’s major travelers and restaurant connoisseur’s**

My food bill:
Currency:
Price chart:
$65.00
United States Dollar (USD)
$$
£42.00
Great Britain Pound Sterling (GBP)
£
€59.00
European Union (EUR)
€€
$85.00
Canadian Dollar (CAN)
$$
$89.00
Australian Dollar (AUS)
$$
¥398.00
Chinese Yuan (CNY)  
¥¥¥¥
  

To get up to date currency rates:





Scroll down below the main review to see cost of wines and tasting notes.



Main review:

Restaurant Qui is a tasting menu restaurant only besides a small selection of Pulutan Cuisine from the Philippines. Half of the restaurant to include the entrance is a built in patio partially opened walls, and ceiling, with the remainder being a normal dining room completely indoors.  The service and bar staff are top notch, with one lead server being a Captain at Alinea in Chicago, the number one rated restaurant in the world by Elite Traveler. My girlfriend and I started at the bar where she enjoyed a margarita on the menu called Nancy, and I had a 15 year old single malt whisky called Nikka 15 Yoichi, near the city of Sapporo, Japan on the island of Hokkaido. (Scroll down below the main review to see wine tasting notes) 




We were seated on the edge of the enclosed portion of the restaurant to the patio so we could enjoy the nice breeze but still felt the cool air from the inside if the wind died down and hot Austin spring crept in. With our tasting menus we also chose the wine tastings to pear with each menu. My girlfriend, even though she wasn’t a vegetarian, she tried the vegetarian menu while I had the regular menu, so we could each share bites from each others plates. Our first wine pairings were a Non Vintage La guita Manzanilla Sherry Palomino, from Jerez, Spain which paired with my girlfriends first course of a caramelized onion jus, a cow and goats milk Valdeón blue cheese, ciabatta croutons, Spanish Montilla Region Amontillado Sherry gelee, with sprigs of thyme. A very nice palate opening delight, with a very flavorful blue cheese, and mildly pungent. 

My wine selection was a Non Vintage Virtue Sidra de nava from Michigan, a cider to match the San Marcona Almond Gazpacho, with shaved foie gras, and Pedro Ximénez Sherry gelee. The almonds were shaved versus sliced, and the Gazpacho flavor was just outstanding.

For the second course my girlfriends dish was a green onion crème fraîche, lettuce, swiss chard, diced apple, and pine nut butter served with a non vintage glass of Tintero “Grangia” secco, favorita, moscato, chardonnay, from the Piedmont, Italy. For my course, there was a small serving of skipjack tuna crudo “raw," with carrots, yellow onion twists, and flowers served with a  2014 Greek Sigalas Assyrtiko, from Santorini Island. 


For the Third course, the wine tasting for my girlfriend was a 2013  Brooks Winery “Amycas”, Pinot Blanc blend, from Willamette Valley, Oregon, and my tasting was a Japanese beer called Hitachino Nest white ale, ibaraki, which I had tasted before from a restaurant wine list and beer a few years earlier. The tasting for my girlfriend included a miso, with brown butter, sunchoke, also known as a Jerusalem Artichoke topped with green curry, and smoked egg yolk.  To go with my beer, the course presented was a fried chicken breast, over smoked oyster aioli, Sal de Gusano, and  an egg yolk custard. Sal de Gusano is a sea salt mixed with agave worms from tequila, and chile costeño.


The forth course presentation wise, was the best course of the evening for not just me, but my girlfriend as well. Her tasting was a charred scallion, with braised daikon, toasted sesame seed, sweet tasting black garlic, and a garnish of seaweeds, served with a glass of 2013 Scholium Project “naucratis," verdelho, from Clarksburg, California. My tasting selection was a 2013 Hanzell “Sebella”, Chardonnay, from Sonoma, paired with a yellowtail which was seared on Binchō-tan charcoal, with midorizu, oil drops, garnish and flowers.





The fifth course or the mushrooms course as I like to call it had wine tastings including a Spanish d. Ventura “vina do burato”, Mencia, Ribeira Sacra, for my girlfriend to go with her tasting of trumpet royale, hedgehog, and black trumpets, with a Beurre monté magic butter emulsion, which was used on a dish when I went to The French Laundry in 2013. To finish her dish there were garnishes of Japanese yama imo plant, and shavings from a North American balsam fir Christmas tree. An Italian non vintage Cleto Chiarli lambrusco, emilia-romagna was served with pork blood, maitake mushrooms, sunchokes, Brussel sprouts, and pickled garlic.

Texas and the Philippines were the themes of the final entree courses before desserts came out. For my girlfriend,  it was a course of filipino peanut curry, with cubed kimchi, very light in flavor unlike most pungent Korean kimchi. Finishing up the plate with some radish, cilantro, and Japanese Koshihikari rice, which went with a tasting of a 2011 Portuguese ‘Veedha' (means life) Red Douro. The texas course for me represented a Texas Wagyu short rib, with daikon radish, leeks, nori seaweed, and a light kimchee broth severed with a 2012 Perrin et Fils Côtes du Rhône reserve from Château de Beaucastel, which by far was my favorite wine of the night, but then again I’m partial to the Rhone Valley wines. 


The final course (dessert) marking a close end to a wonderful evening at a spectacular restaurant, and a great date night for my girlfriend as I, closed with us sharing each other desserts beyond that of just a small bite as we had done on the previous five courses. These desserts were a coconut fig caramel, topped with goat milk ice cream, and a coffee cashew semifreddo. The second dessert was a Spanish crema montada, (whipped cream) served over a carrot, apricot, spiced cake, and a caramelized white chocolate shaved topping. The final dessert beverages with these courses were an Italian Amaro Montenegro, from Bologna, a liquor with over 40 herbal flavors infused, and a Belgian beer called Von Honsebrouck Kasteel rouge, (Castle Brewery) Ingelmunster. 






This Restaurant reminds me of:

Qui was a fantastic experience, and a pleasure to dine at. It has great potential to become a top one hundred of the world, and I have no doubts that within a year or two it will be in the top one hundred of American restaurants. I would compare it to a few other wonderful restaurants that I have dined at outside the top one hundred lists such as Grill 225, a top ten american Steakhouse in Charleston, South Carolina, and Fiddlesticks Restaurants in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

Other Austin favorites:
Benji’s Cantina
Home Slice Pizza
Güero's Taco Bar 
Perla’s Seafood and Oyster Bar

Visit other Austin Restaurants at OpenTable.com 



Other trending story’s on Wine, Dine, and Play:
Gourmet Wine Tours of South Africa, Cape Town, South Africa
Harlequin Public House, Christchurch, New Zealand
L’Ecrivain, Dublin, Ireland


Cost of wines and other alcoholic beverages in $$ USD:
$45.00




Tasting Notes:

Wine & Grape:
Nose (Bouquet):
Palette Experience:
Michigan, USA
Its lemony nose and bracingly tart dry finish are a happy intersection of cider, dry white wine and fresh squeezed lemonade
more tart than the dry ciders of England or funky cidre from France
La guita Manzanilla sherry
Palomino, Jerez, Spain, NV
Very fresh on the nose, aromas from the aging, candied fruit, floral notes and almond nuances.
Light, flavorful and very aromatic. Fresh and persistent.
Fermentation in stainless steel tanks under controlled temperature
a depth of flavor and an acidity which brings the flavors to the fore and adds freshness, with a lasting after-taste. Has the characteristic mineral taste
    A blend of 50% indigenous Favorita 25% Moscato, 20% Arneis and 5% Chardonnay, the pale straw-colored Grangia sports an intentional dose of trapped CO2. Herbal, lemony and chalky on the nose

The wine revives and refreshes on the palate with lemon, lime and tangerine fruit complemented by suggestions of hops, musk, cardamom pods and tarragon. Dry on the finish, the wine adds electric limestone minerality alongside notes of beeswax, clover honey and lemon thyme.
Belgian Style with scenting of nutmeg and coriander 


Brilliant aromas of tangerine, beeswax, chamomile and wet stone combine with our signature floral scent reminiscent of honeysuckle and jasmine. 
Pink grapefruit, pear and apricot expand out over the rich, viscous mid-palate
Verdelho's surprising warm-weather acidity.

Intense color, dense aromas of currant and blackberry,
rich on the palate but balanced acidity. For those who want intensity but without obligation.
Light in aspect with floral and fresh aromas
The palate is medium bodied with rose petal and red fruit flavors framed with fresh tannins
Grenache Syrah Blend. Still slightly lactic, the nose has intense notes of red fruit, raspberry jam, spices, black pepper. 

Soft and round, structured with freshness
Blend of red Douro varieties the Veedha (means life) is sweet and spicy with plump briary fruits, sarsaparilla, plush chocolaty/mocha and crushed flowers on the nose.

Sweet ripe fruits, fine spice, cherry and mocha. Supple and generous with a long smooth finish.

Wine Regulatory: 


Restaurant address:
1600 E 6th street
Austin, Texas 
78702


Neighborhood:
6th Street District

Cross streets:
 Comal Street & Chicon Streets

GPS Coordinates

Latitude: 30.263199
Longetude:- 97.726339


Contact Information: 
Maître d, Reservations:
512-436-9626
Restaurant Website:
Email:
Online Reservations :
Social Media:


Facebook Link                
Pinterest



Hours:
Dinner:

Monday
5:00–10:00 pm
Tuesday
5:00–10:00 pm
Wednesday
5:00–10:00 pm
Thursday
5:00–10:00 pm
Friday
5:30–11:00 pm
Saturday
5:30–11:00 pm
Sunday
Closed
  
Standard Time (GMT -6:00)


Proprietor / Manager:

Charlotte Robertson

Sommelier:
Rachel del Rocco








Review by:
Chef Sean Overpeck (CFE)






Chef Sean cooks for soldiers in Afghanistan, 2012:




"Culinary perfection consists not in doing extraordinary things, but in doing ordinary things extraordinarily well."






TTFN

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