Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Azul Tequila - Austin, TX
Austin for $500, Alex.
The answer is...immediately right of HobbyTown USA, immediately left of Herpeton Exotic Pets, and right across from Dong Nai.
What is the worst possible place to put a Mexican restaurant?
Seriously, Herpeton Exotic Pets? Would you buy a pet at a place with an STD in its name? Does it concern anyone that the exotic pet store is right across the lot from a restaurant called Dong Nai? I'll take my chances at HobbyTown, thank you.
It's this location that has kept me out of this place though I have wanted to try it for it's supposedly authentic interior Mexican cuisine.
Nestled amongst these three booming businesses, in Texas's blandest stucco strip mall, in the middle of the world's largest Target parking lot, is this little piece of the Yucatan. I arrived at 12:30, and the place was half full, which I'm confident is solely a function of location. Not much to brag about inside, as it's rather sterile, but it does have a small bar with several stools and a flat screen. This is where I settled. Today on Jerry it was "I'm Leaving You For A Stripper". Yeah.
I'm going to get right to it. The food was good, but nothing I'd drive out of the way for as there are comparable options in better locations. That said, next time I'm down picking up some model cement, I'll probably stop back in.
I started with chips and salsa and some queso. Chips were fine, thin and warm, and the salsa was pretty mild but fresh, with an interesting tomato and black pepper flavor. The queso was Austin variety, American cheese based and incredibly creamy, and though it lacked any heat, containing only a few tomato and poblano chunks, it was very good.
I opted for the cochitina pibil...achiote coated slow roasted pork in banana leaves, which came with tortillas, roasted bananas, pickled onions, habaneros, and black beans. I'll be quite honest in telling you I don't have a clue what makes a great cochitina pibil, but I do know that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. With this dish, you need it all, and they did a really good job here. The earthy sweetness of the tender pork was enhanced in flavor and texture by the perfectly caramelized banana. The bright pink pickled onions provided the necessary salt, tang, crunch and temperature variance, and the tiny slivers of raw habanero provided the perfect intense and sweet heat, with the size of the slivers being just the right size to provide that without any lingering burn. Very well done.
The beans were nothing special, just black beans in a mildly flavorful watery broth, cooked to a good point of not being mushy but also not too firm. It's clear these people know what they're doing, it's just a bad location. It was a very good meal, and if you're in the area around lunch or want to meet someone from the south halfway, give it a shot, you won't likely be disappointed.
Atmosphere: in-line retail flanked by a pet store and anchored by a Target, rather bland, good spot for lunch, bar seating
Food: interior Mexican and Tex-Mex
Dog Friendly: maybe outside, but you probably don't want to sit there
When to Go: lunch
What to Order for the First Timer: cochitina pibil