Austin Restaurant Week, Spring 2014

Before I launch into the main piece of this post, I wanted to bring your attention to some blog updates. I added a side bar with search capabilities , a calendar for perusing past posts, and updated my background image! I've been trying to figure out for months a quick way to allow readers to navigate through past posts so I hope you enjoy the new look and side bar. Now, on to the food!

Keith and I have been trying to spend more time enjoying Austin, since with his long work hours, we don't typically have many nights out on the town. May 11 - 14 and 18 - 21 were Austin Restaurant Week, so last week, we tried two restaurants for the first-time: Russian House and No Va Kitchen & Bar. If you're in the area, we would highly recommend trying out both!

Russian House had a very unique and fun design with a huge bar, delicious infused vodkas, quirky dining room, stuffed bear in a t-shirt that "greets" you at the front door, and the longest menu I've ever seen. A meal at the Russian House will not be an hour-long visit, so plan accordingly (eat very lightly the day of your visit), and enjoy your time there. The evening starts properly with free shots of vodka, then choose from a wide variety of infused vodkas or mixed drinks (try the Russian beer!) and get a few appetizers to share with the table. I highly recommend the Khash soup or classical Julienne. There are so many entrees to choose from, and I'm sure they're all delicious. Ask your server for suggestions (ours was very helpful) but if you're stumped, a safe bet is their award-winning, very largely portioned, beef stroganoff. I could only eat 1/4 of the meal and Keith took the rest for lunch the next day. If you save room for dessert, our favorite was the babushka. Wear loose-fitting clothes and plan for a long walk afterward, because their food is rich and very filling but also tough to stop eating.

I snapped a few photos on my phone but I highly recommend checking out this link for some additional, better lit, photos of the Russian House.

On Tuesday night, while still recovering from my migraine attack (perhaps caused by too much vodka the week before?), Keith and I had dinner at No Va Restaurant & Bar. It's a new, modern restaurant on Rainey Street. I'm not a huge fan of the area because parking any day of the week is impossible, but I suppose that's almost everywhere in Austin now. No Va is worth the hassle of parking. The space is beautifully decorated, has indoor and outdoor tables, booths with huge leather couches, and plenty of industrial lighting. Essentially all my favorite things. On top of the great decor, the food is also delicious. We opted to skip the restaurant week options here since they weren't as appealing as the rest of the menu, so we ordered fried cauliflower and a goat cheese spread to share. I was also skipping the alcohol at this point for headache recovery, but I tried a few sips of Keith's mixed drink, the Lo' Daddy. It essentially tasted like an old-fashioned but the bacon bitters added a bit more smokiness to the finish. Very tasty! After our large portions at Russian House the week before, we opted to share our entree and dessert. The beef pappardelle was tender, flavorful and just the right amount for two people. But the biggest hit of the night were the warm-from-the fryer, blueberry donuts with homemade lavender whipped cream. I'm hungry all over again just thinking about them.

This space was especially tough to get photos of, so here are a few from Austin Eater and one I had to snap of the ladies room wallpaper. For more images, check out Austin Eater's recap the day before No Va opened last August.

Image from Austin Eater

Image from Austin Eater

Image from Austin Eater

Image from Austin Eater

Image from my phone

Image from my phone

I'm glad we got to enjoy a little more of all the delicious restaurants Austin has to offer, and I'm looking forward to more date nights and trying new-to-us places in town. If I ever posted reviews on Yelp, I'd definitely share some great feedback on both these. Go check them out and let me know what you think!