Thus far on our little culinary trek through Austin fine dining establishments have not been very high on our list of priorities. Not that we have anything against them, we just generally find ourselves more interested in the new neighborhood pub, or cafe, or a new trailer or food truck. This week's review takes us to Soleil, an Italian themed restaurant with a French name. And, in case you had not already guessed, it certainly qualifies as a fine dining establishment. Located on the cliffs above Lake Travis, Soleil offers some of the most spectacular views in Austin in addition to their fantastic food.
Another great thing about Soleil is that they are part of the same family of restaurants as Uncle Billy's. In fact Uncle Billy's has a location above Soleil, so that means some of Brian Peter's fresh brewed beer is always on tap!
We started things out with an Axe Handle IPA to drink, and fried calamari. The IPA was fantastic. Nice and bitter, and with a nice amount of citrus from the hops. If you haven't had any of Brian Peter's brews I'd recommend you get yourself to an Uncle Billy's or Soleil and remedy that problem.
The calamari was tentacled perfection. Calamari (squid) is frequently just the tentacles. In this case it was no tentacles and all squid steak. Squid can be a very tricky protein to work with due to its chewy nature. If it's not cooked either very quickly or for a very long time it will be rubbery and unappetizing. This calamari was done perfectly. The breading was nice and crunchy and the
calamari itself was very tender. It was served with a very nice marinara and a fantastic garlic aioli for dipping.
The first dish we had was the grilled scallops. I don't have a lot experience with scallops, but I've always liked them when I've had them. These were easily the best example that I've had yet. The scallops had a nice char and color, a nice sweet flavor and a hint of smoke from the fire. The texture was buttery perfection while being warm the whole way through (the last time I had scallops they were cold in the middle and a touch tough. That restaurant will never be reviewed). The scallops came served with a very nice sweet pea emulsion, a small summer salad, and candied fennel. I loved the fennel so much it almost could have been the star of the dish if not for those perfect scallops.
Next up was the flattened chicken breast. I know what you're thinking, "you went to a place like Soleil and got the chicken breast? Really?" Really. And we have no regrets about it. The chicken was spot on. Chicken breast is notoriously easy to ruin and over cook. That was not an issue here. It was tender and juicy all the way through. It was served with coppa and provolone on top. How do you make a perfect chicken breast better? Simple, add some cured pork to it then add a little cheese on top of that. It came with fingerling potatoes and fried sage. The potatoes were great, but I'm a huge fan of the fried sage. This is a chicken dish worth giving a try.
After a little deliberation we decided to close our meal with dessert. We decided on the turtle cheese cake. This is not a surprise since cheese cake is easily one of my favorites. The fact is I'm usually a pretty easy audience for cheese cake but this one ranks among the best that I've had. The best ones, I think, have the following qualities: a firm but still silky texture, a little sweet but not cloyingly so, rich but not overpowering, and the toppings or marbling as the case may be (chocolate and caramel in this case) should know their place. They are they to provide a nice accent but not to be a main player. The way I see it is that if you want a dessert that is primarily sauces and toppings then just get bowl of syrup, nuts, and caramel but leave the grown-up desserts to the grownups.You'll be happier that way, and it leaves more of this nearly perfect cheese cake for those of us capable of appreciating it.
All in all it was a great experience. The food was stellar and the service was top notch. Our official AFJ rating-
5 well deserved Lone Star points.
6550 Comanche Trail
Austin, TX 78732