I vividly remember when Barley Swine first moved into our neighborhood on Burnet Road. The bride and I walked over from our casa, and we ordered a tabletop of mixed drinks and small plates. After the first sip of the first drink and the first taste of a first small plate, I informed the bride that “This is going to be a financial setback,” meaning that the Swine’s proximity and deliciousness were going to hit our bottom line.
In reality, it hasn’t been that bad of a financial hit. We generally only visit Barley Swine for special occasions (wedding anniversaries and, for this trip, a decadal birthday). The Swine’s well-deserved popularity requires prior planning for reservations (something we’re not particularly good at), even for sitting at the bar or in the less formal spaces outside of the dining room. I would say that on average we visit the Swine about once a year. As the best restaurant in Austin (imho), we really should visit more.
Barley Swine’s chef and owner, Bryce Gilmore, has been a James Beard finalist half a dozen times, and for good reason: This is world-class locavoring with immense attention to taste, presentation, and delivery. On a previous visit (for a wedding anniversary), we sat at the chef’s bar and saw an army of preppers assembling the dishes, everyone with tweezers at the ready.
This is not an inexpensive place to eat and drink. The chef’s tasting menu, which we enjoyed on this visit, is $95 a head, and the drink pairings add another $55 per capita (I learned from Chef Paul Petersen that when the chef picks the pairings, you have the pairings). But if you are a serious Austin foodie, you have to dig deep into your wallet. Barley Swine is a must.
As is often the case with these fancy-pants places, when you order the tasting menu, there are bonus courses, and that was the case here where the Swine listed nine courses but served 12. Everything was, of course, delicious (every bite and sip is an adventure; see the blow-by-blow below), and waitstaff were attentive and informative. And although Barley Swine is fancy pants, it’s also Austin low key: you don’t have to get dressed up for this joint.
web&where: interwebs; 6555 burnet road; (512) 394-8150; reservations
overall: **** (food****; drink;****; atmosphere***; service****; instagrammability****)
cost: $$$$$$$$$$ (tasting menu; could be less ordering a la carte)
does it scramble? n/a
about our scale:
– meh [think twice]
* OK [it’ll get the job done]
** good [solid neighborhood joint]
*** damn good [we’ll be back]
**** holy sh!t [transcendental]
Course 1: Tomato shot with raw fish.
Course 2: Forgot, but it was damned savory and delicious.
Course 3: Blue claw crab, shishito, habanada paired with a 2017 Rezabel Txakoli from Basque, Spain.
Course 4: Fried shishito pepper tamale paired with a 2015 Immich-Batterieberg Riesling Kabinett from Mosel, Germany.
Course 5: Marinated shrimp, apple, and lemongrass (also paired with the previous wine). We would have never guessed that this was shrimp looking at it!
Course 6: Red snapper with mustard greens and basil paired with a 2015 Kiralyudoor Furmint Sec from Tokaji, Hungary.
The snapper was interactive in that we needed to pour this aromatic “tea” into the dish.
Course 7: Butternut squash, baby bleu cheese, and toasted masa paired with Bell’s Brewery Wild One Sour Brown Ale from Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Course 8: Smoked quail, yogurt, mushroom granola paired with a 2016 Bodegus Ponce La Casilla Bobal from Manchuela, Spain.
Ah yes: the mini spatch!
Course 9: Dry aged Akaushi ribeye, bone marrow, and tater tots paired with a 2011 Movia cabernet sauvignon from Brda, Spain.
Had no idea that we have a local knife maker!
Course 10: Texas tarragon panna cotta, apple, cardamom.
Course 11: Butternut mousse, oat, mesquite, and fenugreek ice cream paired with a Cleto Chiardi Del Fondatore Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna, Italy.
Course 12: Mini ice-cream sammiches!
O jess: Coffee!!!
The Facebook caboose.