I write about restaurants for a living, so I must say it feels a little odd to be writing a review for myself, rather than for a client. Nonetheless, hubby and I had the opportunity to try the Paggi House for dinner the other weekend. We had been for brunch before, which is one of the few buffet brunches in town (more on that another day), but I had always wanted to try their dinner.
Paggi House (www.paggihouse.com) is somewhat of an iconic eatery in Austin, one that is perhaps best known for it’s stunning outdoor patio, which is simply huge and lavishly appointed with cute cabanas for private dining, and plenty of space for a fabulous al fresco meal. It is also dog friendly, which is important to many. Being without kids, however, we wanted to be treated like royalty and dine in the stunning dinning room which features intimate smaller rooms for dining, as opposed to one large room which can be noisy and impersonal.
Nicole was our server, and I will say that after all the restaurants I’ve eaten in, she was hands down the best. Knowledgeable, personal without being intrusive, knew the menu and wine list like nothing I’ve ever seen, and was happy to either guide us or let us make our own selections. She was also observant and picked up on our subtle cues before we could ever ask for anything.
So, on to the food. Hubby and I have been on an informal hunt for the city’s best pork belly dish, so when we saw that the Paggi House had a rendition on the menu, we had to try it.The Grilled Pork Belly with pickled strawberry, crispy potato and poppy seed togarashi caramel was divine, and, nearly as good as the pork belly offered by chef Josh Watkins at The Carillon. Hubby was presented with a substantial chunk of perfectly grilled and melt-in-your-mouth tender pork belly that had a great ratio of meat to fat. Some pork belly has too much of one or the other but this was perfect. The pickled strawberry lended a subtle acid to offset the richness, and the potato strings were light and addictive.
I had the Lobster Bisque and was pleased to see that it was homemade. Not made from a purchased base – you can tell from the color. Lobster base if made from scratch is almost a brownish-rust color while when made from a prepared product it is more pink, thanks to the added coloring. There was a nice morsel of lobster in the bottom of the bowl, and it was rich, indulgent and delicious.
We also had to try the Ham and Eggs, partly because the server couldn’t stop gushing over it and partly because as a chef and foodie I was entranced by the idea of a poached and deep fried egg. The dish was sublime. The egg was perfectly crisp on the outside and still warm and runny in the center, and the crispy speck was a real treat. The dish could have, I think, been a little less onion heavy, and it could have used another spear or two of bread to load all the goodies on to.
Then, we moved on to entrees.
I had the Pacific Halibut with prosciutto, leeks, king trumpet mushrooms and a black truffle vinaigrette. It was a perfectly composed dish and a good size. The trumpet mushrooms were a nice surprise as they’d been braised first to make them more tender. The dish as a whole was great, but the fish was a trifle over cooked and while it was good, it wasn’t spectacular.
Hubby’s dish was spectacular, and I could have fought him for it. He had the Pork Tenderloin with Texas peaches, haricots verts and pommery jus. It doesn’t sound so amazing but trust me, it was outstanding. The pork was lightly smoked and then grilled and it was so tender I couldn’t believe it. The peaches were grilled and added a nice sweetness that blended harmoniously with the pork, and the jus was simply amazing and tied the dish together. His was a fairly substantial portion, especially when factoring in the bright green and still crisp beans.
We’re not usually dessert folk, but I couldn’t resist the Beignets with a chocolate hazelnut sauce and a banana milkshake shooter. It was fun, whimsical and all the flavors were spot on. Who can resist a freshly fried donut dusted in sugar? I couldn’t. The milkshake hit you upside the head (in a pleasant way) with the fresh banana flavor and it an amazing component to the dish.
All in all, I give Paggi House a 5 for service, and a 4 3/4 out of 5 for food, and, I highly recommend it. It isn’t cheap, but if you want the best then this is one of the few places in town where you can get it.