This week, Austin Chronicle reviewers visit Olive & June, Tortilleria Rio Grande No. 2 and Zhi Tea.
Kate Thornberry visits east side tea house Zhi Tea, which has just begun offering plates and platters of local bites in addition to "close to a hundred varieties of the finest teas available worldwide." She likes the "Taste of Texas" platter best, with Pure Luck goat cheese and organic Texas pecans.
Down south, Rachel Feit challenges herself to find "the best taco in Austin," but ultimately can't pick a favorite. She does, however, really like the "gem of a cafe" that is Tortilleria Rio Grande No. 2 on William Cannon, where she digs the pork and nopales taco and the nopales stewed with onions and tomatoes, "the kind of dish you'd find in your abuela's kitchen – bursting with matronly love."
But the main course is at the "incredibly elegant" Olive & June, where Melanie Haupt finds the "highest highs and lowest lows." She's less enamored of Shawn Cirkiel's Bryker Woods Italian place than Matthew Odam and Mike Sutter, but finds common ground with them on the restaurant's oversalted pasta: Haupt writes that the carbonara was "incredibly salty" and the cavatelli "concealed land mines of salt." (Confidential to Chef Cirkiel: the pasta? It is too salty.)
Apart from the seasoning issues, Haupt says her food was "either unremarkable or sublime," and she highlights the short rib ravioli, farm egg with polenta and gelato trio as favorites on the regular menu. She also stops by Olive & June's Sunday family-style dinner, where her group was served "enough food to easily feed a baseball team" and she liked the antipasto and the salad, but veal meatballs were "dry and dense."
Haupt wasn't impressed with the staff, complaining that the female hostess and manager were dressed in "droopy tube tops and inappropriately short skirts," while the male servers wore "baggy jeans and scruffy, plaid shirts." Between-course lag time was "frustrating," and she decides that the restaurant "has a way to go before it lives up to the potential suggested by that glorious building."
Olive & June. [Photo: Raymond Thompson/EATX]