Category Archives: Chef's Menu

Andiamo, a year later

Cheesy, herb bread!

Cheesy, herb bread!

First Course

First Course

So, it turns out Chris and I have created a birthday tradition. Andiamo’s delicious five-course chef’s menu for Chris’s birthday. We’ll see if we can keep the tradition alive when we have a baby. Something tells me it might be hard to find the time for a five-course meal with 10-month old.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand – food. So a few things were different this time versus our last experience. The service was noticeably improved. Last time they lost our reservation and did not acknowledge his birthday. This time everyone was on the ball and we were sat right away and the hostess even gave Chris a birthday greeting. It was nice to see the improvements.

On the less positive side, while the food was still superb, it was just not as creative as our previous experience. This time our first course was asparagus wrapped in prosciutto with artichoke hearts and roasted bell peppers with an olive oil and red pepper reduction drizzled on top. Of course this was delicious. But I mean, my sister’s boyfriend made asparagus wrapped in prosciutto at Thanksgiving. It’s not exactly deserving of a chef’s menu first course. That’s just an opinion, but hey it’s my blog.

Veal Ravioli

Veal Ravioli

Our second course was absolutely delicious. It was veal ravioli topped with a veal, marinara sauce that was then baked with smoked provolone on top. While it was tasty, just as the first course was it just did not electrify me. This dish just seemed very safe and comfort foodish. Believe me, it was as good as it sounds. But how can you go wrong with tons of cheese baked over pasta stuffed with veal??

The Piece de Resistance

The Piece de Resistance

It was finally in our third course that I saw some of the innovation I had experienced the first time we visited Andiamo. This course was a venison osso buco with Barolo wine and tomatoes in a brandy and green peppercorn sauce with a side of spinach risotto. The meat simply fell off the bone. There was no need at all for a knife. And the sauce was perfectly seasoned, not too salty at all. And it did not have the game taste that is so common in venison. It was delectable. And something I might not have ever tried on my own, but I was so glad I did.

Salad Course

Salad Course

After the heaviness of the second and third course,  it was nice to switch it up and have a light salad. The salad consisted of  spring greens with caramelized walnuts, grapes, oranges and pears topped with a raspberry vinaigrette. Once again, it was a perfectly fine salad. But it just did not inspire.  There was no real explosion of flavor, it was just kind of bland.

Dessert

Dessert

Unfortunately, the final course did not knock it out of the park like I was hoping. It was a white and milk chocolate mousse with powdered sugar and butter pecan gelato with white chocolate shavings. First the good, I loved the butter pecan gelato. It was a lovely consistency, with a perfect balance of flavor. The bad was the rest.  I think the problem might be that I am not a big lover of white chocolate. It just, in my book, does not have a lot of flavor. Also, the mousse did not really have a normal consistency. It was more like a Panna Cotta that had too much gelatin in it (and I know this because I have done it before).

On the whole, people reading this might think this is not a very positive review. But I must re-emphasize how wonderful our first meal was there and that this just was not as good. I will still go to Andiamo whenever our paycheck allows. As I love this place. So please check it out.

Also, if you do go for the five-course menu be prepared to spend a lot of time there. The first time was not a timely endeavor, but this recent experience it took us almost three hours to be served and eat.

Chris’s Italian Birthday Feast at Andiamo

Veal Ravioli in a Cognac Truffle Sauce

My husband is constantly threatening to take me to a local all-you-can-eat  Italian place here in Austin called Cannoli Joe’s. Don’t get me wrong – I love Italian food. But once I got locked out of my car at the farmer’s market nearby and I went to call AAA from Cannoli Joe’s. As it was a typical Austin summer day, it was about 120 degrees – so I decided to walk around and check out this Italian buffet. It was rooms of food. Not just one room – rooms. I think they might have had cute names, like the Venice room or something, I can’t recall. But walking through the whole space, made my stomach hurt. There were many vats of pasta with melted cheese or alfredo sauce and pieces of breaded meats in tomato sauces. I just keep waiting for a Sunday when I am really hung over and starving. While this used to be a common occurence, it is now seemingly rare. Please, do not take this as an attack against Cannoli Joe’s, it’s just the thought of ALL that food that stresses me out.

So for Chris’s birthday I asked him what he wanted to eat.  “Cannoli Joe’s,” he said. I, of course, did not listen. Instead I made reservations at one of the best Italian dining experiences in Austin – Andiamo. We had been there before, but I heard their Chef’s Menu was divine. So I picked that and just hoped it would work out. If he did not like it, I had promised Chris we would go to Cannoli Joe’s the next day.

Well, I was worried at first. For those of you who do not know Andiamo, it is in a strip mall off of Burnet. So from the outside it does not look like much. But I forgive it for that because the food is so impeccable. So this did not bother me, what was worrisome initially was that they appeared to have lost my reservation. The hostess kept scanning and I am guessing never found our name. But she recovered quickly and pretended to know exactly where to seat us. Crisis averted.

Montepulciano D'Abruzzo

Our waitress came out and took our drink order. We asked her to pick out for us a good wine – red, that was not too expensive.  She recommended the Montepulciano D’Abruzzo. It was fantastic. But I will say the wines at Andiamo are on the expensive side.

Quickly, after we sat and our wine was out, our server delivered our first course. And what a first course it was – veal ravioli in a cognac truffle sauce topped with Parmesan-Reggiano cheese. Every bite was incredible. I love truffles, so it’s kind of unfair to review. You could put truffle oil on my ice cream and I would love it. It was the perfect size and packed a wonderful, decadent punch that kicked off our meal nicely.

Arugula and Fennel Salad with a Basil-Lemon Vinaigrette

As an American, I always start my meal with a salad. I want to be European and eat my salad at another point in the meal. But I just really, really like it at the beginning. So I was less blown away by the salad. I might have liked it better had it been first. I mean it followed veal ravioli with a cognac truffle sauce, how is it supposed to compete??? But I will say, it made a valiant effort. The salad consisted of arugula and fennel (two of my favorite things) with sunflower seeds, apples and it was topped with a lovely and light Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette. It did provide a nice, light interlude before the next course.

The Seafood Course - Scallops in a Calamari Broth

This course blew my mind. I really love food, but I can be a little boring in terms of some seafood. So when the server brought this dish out and said it was scallops in a calamari broth I was nervous. But I had no reason to be. It was so tasty I gobbled it down in record time. This was a beautiful course. The scallops – perfectly cooked – not rubbery and not gooey, just flavorful. And the flavor of the broth was exceptional and enhanced by capers, tomatoes and celery. There was absolutely no fishy flavor at all and the calamari rings were perfect.

Grilled Duck in a Barolo Wine and Cherry Reduction

So, I do not love duck. I think it’s okay. But I have never had it done well. This dish changed everything. It is now on my top five favorite dishes eaten at a restaurant. And it was not just that the duck was perfectly cooked –  crispy, with just a hint of fatty flavor. It was not just that the cherry and wine sauce tasted like it was meant to be eaten with the duck. Nor, was it that I love mushrooms and underneath the beautiful duck breast was a bed of the best and yummiest Morel mushrooms ever. It was these things together that made this dish spectacular. I can still taste this dish. It is making me hungry as I type.

Homemade Dessert Ravioli

For dessert I was hoping it was not going to be a Tiramisu or something typically Italian. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The server brought out one of the coolest desserts I had ever eaten. It was a homemade sweet ravioli with a filling that was quite surprising. It had chestnut cream, honey and chocolate. I absolutely loved it. It was inventive enough that I believe the chef was trying and tasty enough that I ate it ALL.

The verdict on the Chef’s Menu at Andiamo was a two thumbs up. The total for the menu is $55 per person. We did buy a bottle of cheaper wine, but it still cost us about $35 for the wine. Andiamo also has a four-course vegetarian menu for $43.

And if you were wondering, we still have not gone to Cannoli Joe’s. Chris is now trying to get me to take him for Valentine’s Day. I will keep you posted.