In order to make delicious food, you must eat delicious food. The quality of ingredients is important, but one must develop a palate capable of discerning good and bad. Without good taste, you can’t make good food. If your sense of taste is lower than that of the customers how will you impress them? – Jiro, Jiro Dreams of Sushi
When I took a bite of my entree for the first time, it was immediately apparent that the chef at Russell’s Bistro has had their fair share of delicious food growing up. It’s rare to find such quaint and elegant places almost empty on a Friday evening, especially in Austin.
Located on 35th and Kerbey, right next door to Kerbey Lane Cafe
It’s the norm to wait at restaurants in this area: just ask the bistro’s neighbor, the original Kerbey Lane Cafe, the patrons of which easily soaked up more than 3/4 of the parking spaces in that area. [Parallel parking skills are a must to dine here; I suggest parking just across from the restaurant in the roundabout area to avoid the heavy volume out front]
Whether it was luck, or the fact that the restaurant only had 6 total customers, Natasha and I were seated at the bistro’s most coveted table. I dubbed it that because it literally takes center stage in the entire building: it is furthest removed from the kitchen, but it didn’t feel too secluded. It sits adjacent to one of the largest windows, and when combined with the plants that hang above it and the real flower on the table (yes, we both felt it to make sure), it made for one of the most romantic settings I’ve ever dined in. Did someone say date night?
I was bright enough to take a picture of everything except for the scene I just described
I’m one of those people who takes forever to decide what to eat, especially if the menu is Cheesecake Factory aka Bible sized. But thankfully, the feel of the restaurant matched the size of it’s menu: simple, elegant, to the point. It doesn’t try to scream at you so much that you end up nervously pointing to a menu item when the waiter swings by for the fourth time asking you if you’ve made up your mind yet.
Which brings me to my next point: the waiting staff.
Our waitress was very nice, smiled a lot, and was never too much in our faces. More service =/= better service, so I really appreciated the hands off approach that she took.
Continuing on, despite the wonderful simplicity of the menu, I chose the off menu special of the night: beef skewers with a side of mushroom risotto and white cheddar mashed potatoes. Natasha ordered a caesar salad alongside a tomato bisque. Our waitress brought us fresh bread with olive oil dip to start the evening, and we topped the night off with a delectable blueberry creme brulee.
The bread was good, but it wasn’t anything mindblowing. What completely caught me off guard was the beef skewers. One bite and I knew. If you are a meat lover, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Allow me to explain.
I’m not a picky eater by any means, but there are a couple of rules that a restaurant must follow in order to earn my approval. When it comes to meat, it is broken down into the following subcategories:
III. Doesn’t make me sick
I didn’t get sick, so immediately, III. is checked off. Tenderness tops the hierarchy because no matter how good a piece of chicken or beef tastes, it doesn’t matter if it takes 50 years to chew and swallow it. The beef on my skewer had just enough of a bite to it, and it was never a struggle to chew it. II. was a no brainer; the flavor was smack dab delicious, not too strong, not too bland. Most importantly, the beefiness still took center stage.
The beef skewers were easily the star of the show, but the rest of the food proved to be worthy adversaries. I love rice with a bite to it, and the texture in the risotto gave me just that. The mushrooms were a nice addition and gave it an earthy pizazz.
Lastly was the creme brulee. I hate creme brulee. The crust is usually too hard and it’s too sweet. The one at Russell’s Bistro had a very nice crust on it, it wasn’t too sweet, and the cream to egg ratio combined to ensure that one ingredient didn’t dominate the other too much. Also, it was just pretty to look at.
Meal total: ~$45
All in all, I had a completely unexpected experience at Russell’s Bistro. When I first realized that it was right next to Kerbey Lane, the breakfast-loving side of me wanted to drop everything and wait in line next door. I’m glad that Natasha made me stick to it, and now that I’ve tried it and realized what a gem it is, I will definitely be making many, many future visits.
Need a nice, simple date night place relatively close to UT campus, right off of Mopac, west of Lamar, a stone’s throw from Mt. Bonnell and Camp Mabry, and a lot more romantic than Kerbey Lane? Somewhere that gnaws at your budget, but doesn’t completely obliterate it? Choose Russell’s Bistro as your next spot. Check them out at www.russellsbistro.com/
For more pictures and posts about food that you love, make sure to keep your eyes on ATXFoodies
This meal’s featured guest was Natasha, a wonderful friend and travel blogger for LastCallTravels