In some cultures, dining is a lingering, near-poetic experience, whereas other parts of the world value a more literal kind of poetry, like "Your Way Right Away", or "Son of a bitch forgot my fries". Hoping to bring a bit of the former to Austin, El Arbol, opening Sunday.
An ode to mid-century Argentina, this bi-level restaurant's stated mission is to encourage a slower, European pace of consumption, whether in the swankily dim cocktail lounge (where a green & gold onyx bar top's tactfully underlit by LEDs), the elegantly wood-worked, mod-white, open-kitchen dining room, or the three-tiered patio; the concept was hatched by a former energy-trader and his silent partner, an old college buddy who's totally classic once you get a few beers in him.
Because Argentina's the answer to the question "Where's the beef?", they're enticing you to savor red-blooded numbers like an oak-grilled tenderloin (5-, 10-, or 15oz), a 14oz shell steak or eye of ribeye, and an herb-buttered bone-in ribeye called "El Patron", which at 32oz is truly a Big Gulp. Or, spend long sweet hours getting to know marinated semi-boneless quail, Colorado lamb chops basted with chimichurri, whole veal sweetbreads, sandwiches (choripan, pollo, Milenesa Napolitana, lomito), and empanadas like jamon y queso, carne picante, and carne suave, which was named in clear violation of the Rico Act.
To facilitate the hanging around, they've curated the largest South American wine selection in TX, and are rolling out an Argentinean-flavored classic cocktail list that includes the Gauchito Gil (cachaca, blood orange, Campari) and a Primo Malbec vodka/lemon/grape/basil concoction called the Tango-Fresco -- which, in less luxuriant cultures, would be called the Tang-Fresca.