A Work Trip to Austin, Texas

I’ve been very fortunate to get to travel for work a few times a year. Most recently, I was in Austin, Texas for 4 days and got to explore the city a little bit in between work.

On my first night, I had a lovely dinner at Dai Due, a butcher shop themed restaurant that’s a little bit away from the main downtown area. The combination sounded a bit weird, but their Chicken Liver Mousse with Pickled Green Strawberries, Macerated Strawberries, and Grilled Buttermilk Bread was phenomenal! The creamy liver mousse contrasted very nicely with the tart/sourness of the pickled green strawberries and the sweetness of the macerated strawberries. I think this was my favorite meal of the entire trip.

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On the morning of my first full day in Austin, I made the walk over to the State Capitol building just a little after sunrise. The building was quite beautiful in the early morning light and I had a lovely walk around the grounds. The inside of the building was just as impressive. They open every day at 7am and offer free tours as well for visitors.

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My first official Austin lunch was at Iron Works BBQ, where I had some amazing brisket that just melts in your mouth. I know it’s not one of the famous BBQ spots where people line up for hours, but it was pretty darn good!

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We also made the trek out to the South Congress Bridge to try to catch the bats leaving the bridge for the night. Our hotel gave us the tip of arriving by 7:30pm and going across the bridge to a small grassy area just under the bridge. This was a great idea as we had a great view of the bats coming out. You have to wait about 15-20 minutes after the sun has officially started setting. Then a few bats will come out first, to scope out the situation, and then go back in. Then, if they’re going to come out, they start flying out like confetti being shot out of a confetti machine. It’s truly an incredible sight!

I had a great time in Austin and had some truly amazing food. I can’t rave enough about the meals that I had in Austin – everything was so good! I would love to go back one day to explore some more.

Takashi

Takashi has been on my list for a very long time. When it came time to pick a restaurant for my birthday dinner, I knew exactly where I was going to go! Takashi, located on Hudson Street in the West Village, is a marriage between Japanese yakiniku and Korean barbeque. A lot of the dishes feature traditional Japanese dishes paired with Korean flavors.

We had reservations for 4 people (they actually only allow reservations for 4+ people) and was seated right away. At 6:30pm, all the tables were full and most of the counter spots were taken as well. They take your jackets and store them in closets so they don’t smell like barbecued meat, which I thought was very nice.

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We opted to start with a few shared appetizers and then move onto the yakiniku. Our first appetizer to arrive was their Instagram-famous Niku-Uni ($26), which features raw chuck flap topped with sea urchin and served on top of a shiso leaf and seaweed. I really enjoyed each bite (spoiler, I had 2). The uni was really fresh and creamy, and all the flavors meshed really well together.

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We also decided to be adventurous and try the Testicargot ($12), or cow balls cooked escargot-style with garlic shiso butter. I’ve had bull penis as well as turkey balls before and neither of them was a good experience, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this one either. It was actually quite pleasant! To be fair, the cow balls were smothered in the garlic shiso butter sauce so you couldn’t really tell what you were eating. But, I did enjoy the texture and taste a lot more.

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Our last appetizer was the Stewed Beef Tendon Casserole ($16), which was more stew than casserole. I really enjoyed this dish. The beef tendon was very tender and the stew was extremely flavorful and fragrant. I kind of wish the dish was a little bit bigger because I wanted more beef tendon!

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We sampled a variety of meats during the yakiniku phase of our dinner. We ended up trying:

  • Kobe Kalbi, or short rib ($26)
  • Kobe Ribeye ($26)
  • Beef Belly ($20)
  • The Tongue Experience ($25) with Tan-saki, Tan-suji, and Tan-moto
  • Sirloin

All of the meats we ordered were really good, but I think our favorite of the night was the Kobe Ribeye, which we ended up placing a second order. Everything tasted really fresh and a lot of the meats practically melted in our mouths (except for the tongue, of course).

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They only have one kind of dessert here – Homemade Madagascar Vanilla Soft Serve ($5), which you can add a variety of toppings. I went with the, “I’ll have it with the works” ($10), which has every single topping and your choice of a syrup. It comes with Shiratama (mochi), Kurogoma Kinako (black sesame and soybean flour), and azuki (red beans). I opted for the green tea syrup, which helped to cut the sweetness of the ice cream. It was really, really good and made me think of my time in Japan last year where the soft serve is definitely better than it is here.

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Service was attentive and they changed our grill a few times during dinner, which helped prevent the meat from sticking. At most barbeque places I’ve been to, they have to grease the grill. Here they don’t grease it at all, which I guess speaks to the quality of the grill. I did enjoy yakiniku more in Japan, but I think Takashi was definitely my best experience in the US.