Jan 25, 2024
You may have seen an option to “Sign in with a passkey” on one of your favorite websites. In this post I’ll answer these questions:
Passkeys are a new standard for authentication (logging into things). They’re designed to be easier and safer than passwords.
Passkeys are an emerging standard. The FIDO alliance has been working on them since 2013. The ideas are not new, but getting all the major platforms (Google, Apple, Microsoft, etc) to agree on passkeys and roll out the necessary software changes, just took a really long time. On top of that, websites themselves need to make changes to support passkeys. Today you can use passkeys on many major websites (try them on kayak.com for example).
First, what’s a password? A password is a secret that you send to a website to prove who you are. The site compares your password to a long list of known passwords and says Yes or No to your login. Simple, right? But there are lots of problems with this:
Of course, people have tried to solve these problems. One way is password managers like LastPass, 1Password, or Bitwarden. These tools save all your passwords on your machine in a “vault” that has yet another password. The benefit is that your feeble human brain only has to remember the vault password. Then you can let the password manager generate long, wacky passwords that you would never be able to remember. It also protects against phishing, because the password manager won’t fill your password unless the domains match. However, password managers are not perfect. First, they can’t force you to use good passwords. Some people still insist on bad ones. And also, you still have to send the passwords to the site. Even if the password is strong, there’s no guarantee that the site will handle it in a responsible way – they might not hash the password, or might hash it in a way that’s easier to de-garble.
In order to add more security on top of passwords, many websites are now insisting on a “second factor”. There are many of these, but usually it’s a code sent to SMS or generated with an authenticator app. This makes things much more secure, but is a disaster for usability. Many people refuse to enable second factors simply because it’s such a pain.
That brings us to the mess we’re in today, and back to the question: What the heck is a passkey? Passkeys are supposed to fix all of this.
In short: instead of sending a secret password to the site, we keep our secrets private on our own device, and prove to the website that we are the holders of that secret. How does this work? The answer is magic. Well, it’s basically magic. It’s asymmetric cryptography.
You don’t have to know this part, but it’s really, really cool! With passkeys, instead of a password, you have two, randomly generated keys (big numbers) for each website. These are called your “credentials”. For each site there is a public key, and a private key. When you sign up for a website, you give them your public key and they store that. Your private key will be kept on your computer (more about that later). Then, when you go to a website, the website sends a “challenge”. The challenge is a new, randomly generated number. Your computer uses the private key for that site to “sign” the challenge. Basically: apply math to that number that is only possible if you have the private key. Finally, we send the signed challenge back to the site, and – ✨ through the magic of asymmetric cryptography ✨ – the site can use just your public key to verify that the signature on the challenge is legitimate, could only have been done with the corresponding private key.
The terrific part about this is that we no longer have to send our secret key to the website, and that means that a hacker that breaks into that site can’t figure out your password and log in as you. Neat right? There’s more. The keys are managed by your browser or OS (or password manager), and those “credential providers” will never mix up which credentials go with which site. They will automatically select only the credential that was created for a particular website. So phishing scams are pretty much dead in the water, too.
All this adds up to a password-less system that is actually more secure than passwords + second factor authentication.
So what’s the catch?
Honestly it sounds great. But I think it’s important to understand that the system relies on trusted credential providers. The credential provider stores your private keys and gives them to the browser when you need to login to a website. If you’re on Apple, then your credential provider is probably Apple Keychain. Other folks use Google’s password manager (built in to Chrome), or Windows Hello. These providers should keep your credentials encrypted when they are not in use, and allow you to use biometrics like a finger touch to unlock them.
But what happens if you have multiple devices? Ah! Then you will probably want a credential provider that syncs via the internet. Apple can sync passkeys via iCloud, Google via your Chrome account. Password managers such as 1Password, which are rapidly adding passkeys support, are also able to sync passkeys in the same way they sync passwords.
So the takeaway is: you really need to trust your credential provider. Though, to be fair, this is the same as the trust many of us put in password managers already today.
If you rely on Apple Keychain, Google Password manager, 1Password, or another trustworthy password manager that already supports passkeys – then yes, you should use passkeys.
If you are not using a password manager, and you are still inventing, remembering, and typing in your own passwords, then you should probably stop doing that and use a reputable password manager.
Jan 19, 2024
Ahem. Chef Ling Qi Wu, creator of Lin Asian Bar and Qi Austin, presents a new concept in fine Chinese dining: Ling Kitchen. With only a single seating of 20 each night, guests are treated to a uniquely intimate dinining experience. Ten beautiful dishes, served one at a time, and introduced – at the bang of a gong – by their creator.
On arrival, we were led back to a prep kitchen where we sipped champaign and played an ice-breaker game with the other guests. Erin started the game, and chose a card that read What do you find most intriguing about me? Each guest had to say what they found most intriguing about Erin. I said it was her puffy jacket. Another guest said it was her fun jumpsuit. I feel like we all learned a lot about what we thought about Erin.
Then we went to the dining room, in full view of the kitchen where the dishes were prepared. We were introduced to the kitchen staff, including Chef Ling, and we sat down around one big table. It’s really fun trying to guess everyone’s deal. Like, are they a couple, or just friends? Or, how is that guy’s posture so good?
👀 Check out those roast ducks! Ducks don’t get dressed up like that unless they are ready to party.
Our menu for the night:
Soup with texas crab - This dish was specially chosen for the cold, cold night of our dinner. The soup was savory and viscous. The crab sweet and tender.
Lamb tartare with salted plumb & gold leaf - Cool chunks of tender, raw lamb. This is exactly the quantity of raw lamb that I feel comfortable eating. The salty / sweet accents were perfect.
Dumpling trio - These were all incredible, but the middle one was a standout for me. The tumeric infused wrapper was delicately toasted, so that it was crisp, but also pliable and chewy. It sat in a pool of charcoal-infused mayo which tastefully coated its plump bottom.
Seared pork belly - I really liked that they substituted salmon for Erin’s pork. The greens were fantastic.
Crispy shrimp aged soy sauce - Served on a bed of baby greens, with a marigold flower, in a gorgeous, irregular bowl. We were encouraged to eat these whole, with the shell. I loved the rich flavor of the aged soy sauce.
A smoking treasure box… - What is in here??
Peking duck - There was duck in the box! Two pieces: One with green onions (classic). One with beluga caviar. An adorable little bun with individualized decorations. And finally a duck tongue. The duck was incredible. Skin was perfectly crisp, with a thick layer of fat beneath. And it turns out caviar is the perfect accent for oily duck meat.
Shrimp-stuffed zucchini blossom - Somehow they managed to bread and fry the zucchini blossom while retaining the delicate, chewiness of the blossom underneath.
Wasabi ice palette cleanser - A double-whammy of icy brain freeze and wasabi brain shock.
Chilean sea bass - This sea bass was so rich, and the lattice was formed of the fish’s skin.
Curry laksa - This was probably my favorite dish. Squid ink pasta, succulent chunks of lobster, rich curry.
Coco lobster cream puff - A very rich pastry stuffed with lobster and cream-cheese.
Dessert - This was remarkable for having exactly the texture and feel of a real egg. The mango jelly yolk, for example, had the slight resistence, followed by spill, that would get from a sunny-side up egg yolk. Amazing.
Adorable bonus hedgehogs - These were filled with chocolate. I had one bite and then it mysteriously disappeared…
What a special dinner!
4.5 Aemon stars
Jan 6, 2024
Erin and I walked over the bridge from The Line on a beautiful, bright winter day. We did some window shopping and landed at June’s All Day. See my previous post from February 5, 2019.
My previous experience here was so good, I almost ordered the same thing again (smoked salmon board), but no, I need to try new things. So I got the chalupa. Who doesn’t love chalupas? Well, it was nothing like a Taco Bell chalupa, but it was delicious. Kinda like a breakfast tostada, with a fried egg on top, crisp tortilla below, and a salad in-between. Yum!
Erin got a buttery English muffin with two poached eggs. She especially liked the marmalade, which was rind-forward and not too sweet.
Erin’s bobka. It was a lil’ personal bobka, which was cute. But she mentioned it sacrificed her favorite part of a bobka: the warm, soft interior. Check out that free-loading honeybee lapping up bobka suger! This brought up two questions: one: how the heck did this bee find the bobka? Smell? and two: isn’t it funny how honeybee’s are cute and welcome, but a housefly could never pull this off?
This was a lovely meal on a beautiful day.
4 Aemon stars.
Jan 5, 2024
Erin and I went here during our stay-cation at The Line hotel. We walked across on Cezar Chavez (about 45 mins).
I’d been one time before, with David (see July 23, 2023), and was so excited for Erin to try all the amazing bites.
When we arrived the host confirmed our dietary restrictions, handed us a signature cocktail, and led us to a small anteroom where we could size up the other guests. But seriously, one of my favorite parts of omakase is how everyone sits together at a single, cozy bar and you almost can’t avoid meeting your fellow diners. With luck, by the end of the night you’re laughing and making new friends.
Erin loved the welcome bellini. Look how fast she pounded her’s! Our host said he’d invented it that morning: grape fruit, rosemary & lemon. We asked for two more of these over the course of the night :-)
Our chefs explained that we should cleanse our palette’s with pickles between bites. YOU DON’T HAVE TO ASK ME TWICE. I think they refilled this bowl five times.
Tartare - The opener was a sort-of lettuce wrapped fish tar-tar taco. I’m usually not so in to tar-tar. Too mushy. But this one is a roller-coaster of textures and tastes: inside the soft tuna mash there are puffed, toasted rice kernels, lending crunch and smokiness. And just when you think your eyebrows can’t go up any further, you find the tuna itself is flavored with wasabi, slowly taking center stage after the initial surprise of the rice.
Truffle hotate - Erin loved this bite draped with shaved truffle.
Shima aji - Yum.
Chutorro - I loved the dab of mayo on this tuna.
Madai - Yum.
Akami - Our chef explained that this classic piece is what is pictured in sushi emoji, but with a twist: everything bagel space tossed on top!
Kinmedai - Yum.
Check out the SD pride!
Saba - Yum.
I need to get one of these searing torches.
Masu - Yum.
Escolar - Yum.
Zuwaigani - This snow crab was absolutely fantastic. With a little dab of preserved cherry on top.
Kanpachi - Yum.
Otoro - This is one of the stand-out pieces for me. The pickled grape on top has just the right acidity and sweetness to harmonize sweetly as the fatty tuna renders down in your mouth.
A5 Wagyu - Wow. Lightly seared, with caviar on top.
Uni - Uni is interesting, but not for me. Just tastes like a cold blob of ocean snot IMO.
Unagi - I’m on the record as loving eel. This piece was fatty and seared to near liquidity before serving. Fantastic.
These next three were extra, a la carte bites that the chef’s improvised at the end. I couldn’t say no.
Also I forgot to mention I did the “standard sake pairing”. This was super fun. Every two bites or so, the host would come out and say something absolutely ridiculous about the next bottle (e.g., how the rice was massaged, or gently exfoliated before aging in a tiny cottage) and pour me a little cup to enjoy. The spacing and alcohol content was just right.
Overall a joyful, satisfying experience. I had so much fun!
5 Aemon stars
November 10, 2023
I feel silly about this one because we’ve lived right next to this restaurant for years and never went there. I chalk this up to my own prejudice: it’s a plain, unmaintained building in the middle of a desolate parking lot. I figured it was probably middle-of-the-road American Chinese food. Boy was I dumb! This is some of the best Chinese food I’ve had in Austin – and that’s including high-end places like Lin/Qi.
The food is beautiful, fresh, and delicious. The chinese broccoli was cooked just how I like: maintaining a bit of crunch (I’ve since had the dry fried beans and they are also wonderful). The eggplant dish, stuffed with chunks of shrimp and lightly breaded was fantastic. See those weird, glutinous bricks? Those are turnip cakes. Do yourself a favor and eat some.
The shrimp dumplings. Excellent. Unlike a lot of shrimp dumplings that contain a processed shrimp ball, you will find whole chunks of fresh shrimp in every bite.
The pork soup dumplings. They had an interesting innovation here: a tiny, tin cup to catch soup spills. Nice one, Shanghai restaurant. The flavor and quantity of soup doesn’t match the exceptional Lin dumplings IMO, but still excellent.
We did not finish off with sesame balls the first time we went here, but have since, and they are so, so good.
On service: the front of the house was bad. But it was also a random Friday when they clearly weren’t expecting much business. I forgive them.
3.5 Aemon stars!
July 28, 2023
I’m posting this months after the fact, so details will be scant, but I can’t not write about this tuna sandwich.
This is one of Tess’s favorite places and I can see why. They prepare each dish with great care. In fact, I popped up at one point to see what was taking so long, and found a man placing fresh greens with tweezers. Then I sat back down.
Look at this tuna sandwich. A delicately dressed salad. Lots of little flavor bombs: capers, caper berry, olives, a tiny little pickle, a watermelon radish! This was so fun to eat. And the tuna itself was perfectly seasoned.
And here’s a shot of Tess’s salad because it looked so damn good.
And Bixby, because he is so damn cute.
This was a real treat. I loved the ambience (good, sturdy farm table!), the food, the company. Only knock was that they completely fumbled Erin’s food (twice?) when they first brought the wrong thing, then brought something she couldn’t eat. For that I must deduct an Aemon star.
4 Aemon stars!
July 23, 2023
I’m posting this months after the fact, mostly as a record of what we ate. See Jan 5, 2024 post for more detail.
This was my first time here, and I was so pleased that David could join.
One really cool thing they do: after the main service, the chefs offer some of their own personal creations for purchase a la carte. We had some really amazing Austin-inspired bites.
4.5 Aemon stars
June 23, 2023
As Erin said, “Ovenbird: so called because it takes as long as cooking an entire thanksgiving turkey.”
To be fair, we were in a hurry.
Sochniki pastry with sweet cheese. These were beautiful in the display but turned out a bit stodgy.
I ordered a BLT because they ran out of corned beef. The ingredients were tasty: texas toast, thick-cut bacon, fresh veggies. But sadly the thick bread and bacon landed it more in ham sandwich territory – missing the magical balance of a true BLT.
Erin had the open face trout sandwich. When delivered, she was unsure if it was actually smoked trout… it seemed more like salmon. The bread was yummy, but too thick given relatively few things piled on top (similar to the BLT). “The horseradish was good” she said.
2.5 Aemon stars
January 3, 2023
Interesting vibe: kinda fancy-schmancy with high ceilings, jazz and white marble. The cocktail menu included a selection of Japanese whiskey.
The featured ramen is a chicken/pork paitan. I got the “signature”. Hit me with a strong, savory chicken smell. The broth is extremely rich. Default acompaniments are minimal. Diced red onion. Arugala. The pork chashu was a bit disappointing. Thin sliced and IMO under-braised – I’m used to Tatsuya chashu that melts in your mouth.
The noodles tasted just like Sun brand to me. I’d be surprised if they were made in-house.
The old fashioned was great. They somehow managed to trap a bunch of wood smoke in the glass, and the flavor lingered on the surface. Very potent. Very smooth.
3 Aemon stars
September 5, 2022
This delectable brunch brought to you by Grandpa, who hangs out with our kids for a few hours every other Sunday.
Foreign & Domestic is a trendy spot, so be sure to grab a reservation.
The chedder biscuits are incredible. Served hot, with jam and salted onion butter. Grab one with two hands, and twist it like a big oreo to expose the steaming interior. Beware: if you order these, you may spoil your appetite.
I followed up with the standard breakfast, eggs over easy. It’s served with thick-cut house bacon, fried fingerling potatoes, brioche toast and and blistered tomatoes. So good. I didn’t finish my potato & toast due to the aforementioned biscuits, but I really wanted to!
Erin’s creppe was really yummy. In her words: “Flavorful while subtle. Light, and not too sweet”.
F&D is really good. I also enjoy the interior. Sunny and bright, with lots of exposed wood. I’d say the only downside is that it’s a bit cramped inside.
4.3 Aemon Stars
November 22, 2022
An unassuming strip mall pho restaurant in north Austin. I was greeted by the oily waft of simmering beef parts. The server recommended #8. I added spring rolls and a milk coffee.
The spring rolls were generous. Cool, fresh shrimp, cucumber, cold noodles wrapped in a stretchy membrane. A nice, bright palette cleanser.
The pho itself. The broth was fantastic. Notes of sweet green onion, basil, cilantro, and lime layered on a beefy foundation.
In the future I’d skip the meatballs included in the #8, as I don’t like rubbery meat things, but the sliced beef was excellent. I gathered it up in bundles and squirted chile sauce on top before stuffing it into my mouth.
The coffee was nice and strong.
I walked away feeling satisfied, but not overly full. Really good!
4 Aemon stars
November 4, 2022
Fried green tomato starter. Really good. Corn bread coating wasnt greasy and stayed attached. Tomatoes were juicy and tart. Perhaps cut a bit too thick.
Truffled Brussel sprouts with fried egg. The bites with warm egg were quite good. Truffle is not a “value add” for me. The sprouts themselves were fine.
Nashville hot chicken sandwich. Interesting asian flavor blend, with 5 spices coating and pickled cabbage. Holy moly was it hot. I had one bite and needed five minutes to collect myself. Also the pretzel bun was a bit stodgy.
Chicken and waffle. Four fried chicken wings atop a waffle. Everything was tasty but I was torn on how to eat it. Do I carefully pick the meat from the bones with cutlery? Go in hands first? It would be hard to compose a waffle+chicken bite with just your hands. I erred on the side of knife and fork.
My bloody mary was great.
I had a fun time here and would love to try it again. Even though I feel like neither of us ordered correctly, the flavors and finish were spot on.
3.5 Aemon stars
Ocober 30, 2022
The plating was beautiful and the food was mostly very good.
The butter bean appetizer was fantastic. Heavy onion flavor, counterbalanced with a lot of salt and butter. Beans cooked to perfection - resisting the tooth ever so slightly before yielding their velvety contents. Only weird thing was the “sour dough toast” which was a lighter-than-air waifer of dry bread fibers. FALSE ADVERTISEMENT.
The other dishes were yummy. Approximately as pictured. Not exceptional.
The acoustics were bad. Lots of glass. Had a hard time hearing Erin.
Would go back for double order of beans. Hold the toast.
3 Aemon stars
October 19, 2022
This was a special Western-themed event at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants. I was lucky to go with some really fun people. Anyway, I forgot most of what happened already, but here’s the gist!
We started with dry fried green beans, and an onion blossom. The onion was very tender and sweet inside.
I had a kimchi pimento burger. Zesty, yummy. The burger itself had a funny texture. Too homogenous and too rubbery. It put me off, but Mara loved it, so I guess I was wrong in the end!
The fries were fantastic. They came with something called “cowboy ketchup” which was ketchup mixed with pork fat and garlic chile sauce. NICE.
Cocktails were A+.
4 Aemon stars (mostly for the company)
February 5, 2019
It’s been a few months so my memory has faded, but a few things stand out about June’s all day. First the decor has a consistent vintage aesthetic, in the chairs, photographs, and down to the plates and cutlery. Second the light coming through the big windows facing S. Congress was lovely in the late morning. Third, the food was dynamite.
Croquettes. Don’t remember what they were made of, but the dipping sauce was awesome.
My breakfast board was amazing. Fall-apart rich cuts of smoked salmon. Capers. Fresh dressed tomatoes. Delicately whipped wasabi tobiko cream cheese.
4.5 Aemon stars!
January 6, 2018
Austin’s hottest new restaurant is…Bonhomie? Perhaps not. But I commend this French-American bistro for some delightful new offerings and surprising spins on old favorites! My ever-thoughtful wife, Erin Mindell Cannon, planned the evening. We shared each dish.
The first thing I noticed was that the host guy was 17 years old? Now that I mention it there were a lot of young people toddling around this restaurant which, to my mind, kinda fought with the upscale-French-meets-diner thing the place is going for. Anyyyyway.
I ordered a ‘Kentucky Mule’ because the menu had an assortment of ‘Mules’ on it, and I happened to know that the one with Bourbon is called that. This did not go over well, and I got a blank look from our server and a reprimand from Erin! However when the dust settled the drink itself was quite nice. It had a light froth on top, and the acid element was well balanced with the generous dose of Bourbon. You win this round, Bonhomie!
We ordered a few things to share. One of which was this Pho/French-dip crossover. I wanted to order two, but our server was like, ‘How about just one of those?’ Which I took as a comment about my weight. Anyway she ended up being right.
This thing was really cool! Flaky croissant. Meat inside. Thinly shaved onion, mint, jalepeño (this last is very important because the thick chunks can be too hot) – in other words the floral profile of a bowl of Pho. And then a bowl of … beef stock? I don’t know. For me this one was all about potential. I couldn’t really figure out how to enjoy it. I wanted a bite with all the flavors so I tried jamming herbs into the croissant and then dipping it, but it kinda fell apart. Anyway that’s more on me then it is on Chef (that’s what our server called the chef). Erin loved it for it’s delicious pastry qualities. I want to get it again… and next time I’ll just dump everything in the bowl and mash it together.
French onion soup! Erin, who’s opinion I respect in such matters, thought it was unremarkable. I really liked it. Good salt levels, and the bread on top was well saturated (my true readers will recall that I don’t like crusty bread!). Plus, there were nice tender chunks of beef rib at the bottom. What better reward after slurping up all that salty cheesy goodness??
Gnnoooochhhiii. This one smelled great. Lemon and parsley notes activated atop a hot cheese mound. And I say cheese because, and I didn’t know this, sometimes Gnochi is just cheese? Erin said there was no potato in this and that’s why it stuck in my craw like eating a mouthful of kindergarten paste. Thumbs down. Nice try, Bonhomie.
I forgot the fancy word they used for this, but it’s their specialty. They have 5 or 6 varieties and I chose the one that had my favorite things: dill, toasted capers, onion, tomatoes, smoked salmon floating on a creme freshe blob atop a perfectly crisped potato cake. The potato was especially remarkable because it was crispy, salty flavorful without being heavy. This was really the standout thing for me. All the flavors were hitting so nicely – especially the dill/salmon combo which just tastes refreshingly Nordic. Do you know what I mean?
3 out of 5 Aemon stars. Would definitely go back because I can avoid various ordering faux pas and skip directly to two or three of those crazy good potato things.
August 22, 2017
Erin surprised me on date night with a night out at Tiny Boxwoods. I didn’t know anything about this place and when we got there I thought she’d taken me to a proper, southern wedding reception because everyone was in flowing white linens with their hair all done up. But seriously, is there a memo that they circulate to everyone who eats here? We’ve eaten out a lot in Austin, and I’ve never experienced such universal agreement on dress code.
In keeping with the theme, we ordered fried green tomatoes for a starter. They came with a homemade jalapeño aioli. I think I just don’t like fried green tomatoes? The fry was fine, and the tomatoes were… green. We both agreed that the tomatoes needed a little extra something via dipping sauce.. but the aioli was too jalapeño-ey for Erin and not zesty enough to stand on its own for me.
My entree. I think was called ‘watercolors’. Because seafood and coconut rice evoke the sensual swirl of island cuisine – obviously. This was very good! The shrimp and crab were succulent. The rice was a bit muted in its sweetness, and very buttery. I feel like maybe it was missing a punctual note of extra sweetness or zestiness.. maybe some greens with a sugary dressing or something? Golden raisins?
Erin’s burger. There was an avalanche of fries on her plate. Seriously. It was like 8 potatoes, or 10k calories of fries. They were tasty though. The burger itself was really tasty. Beef stood on its own with good flavor. Though, we both agreed that bread & butter pickels can g.t.f.o.
Dessert. We over-did it on this but what the hell. Donuts with dark chocolate dipping sauce on Erin’s side. I appreciated how hot and doughy they were inside, but couldn’t really deal with the sugary outer-coating. Gritty/powdery coatings give me a weird feeling like nails on a chalkboard. Can’t enjoy : (
Berry, something, something brûlée. This was really good! The fruit was excellent, and the brûlée was sweet and fun to eat.
I’d like to go back to Tiny Boxwoods with more understanding of the mood and menu. I think they do an great job of creating an ambiance and menu to match.
3.5 Aemon Stars.
July 2, 2017
Olive and June is an “elegant yet casual” Italian place just across 38th Street from Kerbey Lane.
Spoiler Alert: I really liked it.
We started off on the right foot with a comfortable booth facing the courtyard and its huge oak tree. Temperature was just right. Acoustics were terrific. I think they use some kind of sound dampening because even though there was music playing and other patrons talking, I felt like I could whisper to Erin and be heard. Not having to shout to your dining partner is a big plus in my book!
Service was friendly and helpful. Never kept us waiting long. Granted we were dining at 5:45… but still is appreciated.
Alright, let’s cut the BS. How was the food? They kicked us off with some bread, oil and cheese, along with my drink:
Mezcal based cocktail. Mezcal is my new favorite thing! love the smokiness. This one had just the right hint of sweet to balance it out.
For starters, we ordered Crostini and Pork meatballs. The meatballs were for me obviously and they were fantastic. Good texture, not overly smooth or fatty. Served with a thick tomato sauce and preserved figs. The combo of the sweet fig and the warm spicy pork was fantastic – add the smoky Mezcal, and I was in “hog heaven” (I said that at the time and Erin suggested I put it in the review. DONE).
The crostini had two great things going for it in my book: Perfectly crisped garlic slices, and bread that was both soft and oily but also slightly crisped/singed. No explosions of dry dusty bread in my mouth. No hardened crust cutting into my gums. That said, the other toppings were not as interesting to me. I kinda felt like it needed one more thing to kick it up a notch. Maybe pork?
Erin took this sexy pic of my next drink. A rum based, tropical affair. I liked this a lot at first, but then I felt like the citrus started to take over at the end.
Erin’s main. BUCATINI AMATRICIANA pomodoro, calabrese chili, guanciale. I only had one bite of it but I thought it was terrific. The pasta was freshly made, cooked al dente, and the sauce had a lovely heat to it from the chili.
And for me, MEZZALUNA texas lamb, asparagus, spring onion caponata, parmesan brodo, pecorino. The real stand-out here were the spring onions which were cooked lightly in butter right to the point where they transition from oniony to sweet, but still keeping their crispness. Perfect counterpoint to the rich pockets of shaved lamb drizzled in butter oil.
This place was really firing on all cylinders. I can’t say how it’d be on a crowded night, but for me this was 4 out of 5 Aemon Stars.
October 17, 2016
We were hungry when we got there, and had to wait a bit, so by the time we sat down we pretty much hated everyone in the restaurant. This is to emphasize how good the service/food was, that we forgot all about the grumpiness within a few minutes.
Like its sister restaurant Barley Swine, Odd Duck serves small, inventive dishes in rapid succession. Our waiter, Zach, took our drink and food orders quickly and and thankfully got things off to a quick start.
Cocktails came out first, Erin had a frozen root beer with Rum, hoja santa, and sasparilla. Mine was a smokey pool of mezcal, watermelon juice and spicy pepper syrup. Juuuust enough watermelon juice to moderate the mezcal - so good.
Next was the house baked (and cultured) Sourdough bread with Tomatoe Butter and sea salt crystals. I’m generally not a fan of tough bread, and this had a fairly thick crust, so I was a bit put off by that, but the tomatoe butter and salt were delicious on the soft, doughy bits from the inside.
Next Smoked fish spread on an seed cracker with goat cheese, cucumber and shishito. This was surprising as the fish spread and goat cheese were very light and airy, but with a strong smokey taste.
Next green tomato & masa fritter, goat chorizo verde, goatzii and pickled corn. This was a flavor explosion. The fritters were oily, crispy, the corn and onions were cool, zesty accent to the savory bed of crazy-rich chorizo sausage beneath. This was maybe my favorite dish of the night because it looked like a random pile of stuff, but every element was sooo good.
I was stuffed already when they brought out this pizza. But it was so damn good that I ate it anyway! Smoked fun-guy pizza pie, hot sauce, scamorza, charred peppers, and a ranch dipping sauce.
Duck egg! soft, salty duck chunks. A sophisticated hash.
A wicked good old fashioned.
And then they Erin and the Waiter conspired to bring me a birthday surprise!
This is one of those meals where everything is amazing. Super flavorful. Great service. I only deduct one star because I didn’t like the decor or the too-tall chairs.
4 out of 5 Aemon-Stars!
Also special thanks to our chauffeur, Ryguy. He was every bit as street-wise and lovable as the limo driver from Crocodile Dundee.
May 11, 2016
We walked in the front door – the side facing Burnet with the obviously marked door – and a waiter was like, ‘they’ll help you in the front’ as she busied away to help someone else. And we were like ‘Dhhhrrrrrrrrr….’ until she came back and pointed to what was clearly the back of the restaurant, where the host was hiding. Needless to say, we were flabbergasted.
No cocktails here! so you can stop waiting for me to describe one.
Our starter: toasted bread with baked brie w/ walnuts and cherries. This was awesome. The bread was perfect. Somehow they managed to get crispy toasted outside while maintaining chewy, fresh interior. My guess is they used butter and cooked it like a grill’t cheese. The skillet was hot. Like .. Chilli’s at 45th & Lamar hot. Brie was oily and delicious.
For secondsies we shared Wagyu Steak Frites and A Warmed Ceasar salad. The wagyu was a little chewy for my taste, and not super flavorful. The frites were good – sliced up baby russets with skin on. I don’t always like skin on, as Erin was quick to point out…. but this time was cool..
Here’s the salad. Those small dark things were toasted capers. Big thumbs up for those. The dressing and the toasted cruton thing were also great. The down side was that once you ate through to the other side, you’re basically just eating a lettuce stem. Not terrible, but ‘inconsistent’, as Erin said.
Chocolate Ganache. Rich like a mousse. Very salty, which worked for me.
Overall I give it 3 out of 5 Aemon stars. The atmosphere was casual and pleasant. Would def. eat there again. The food wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders (only loses marks because it could have been exceptional), and they need to pull their heads out w.r.t where the front of the restaurant is.
April 20, 2016
This beautiful cocktail set the tone for the meal: attention to detail. And potent, too! I had a bit of a buzz by the time our first plate came out.
I love the way this little guy was nestled on the plate. Seared pompana (fish) with radish, toasted spring onions, on a creamy base of something or other. Everything about it was tiny, so you had to squint with your mouth to appreciate all the textural surprises: very crunchy onions, slightly less crunchy radishes, creamy stuff, delicious seared fish – all your favorite things. Can they keep up this level of cookery??
This one was less interesting to look at. A few pasta pockets with some sliced shiitake on a bed of creamy egg. I was like ‘meh’! but the waiter was all, ‘definitely eat the pastas in one bite’, so we did and WOAH. Explosion of rich, savory sauce! Very surprising. In a good way!
Some butter lettuce with dressing? whatever. But this lettuce was coated with perfectly balanced dressing - oil, sour, salt singing together in perfect harmony. seriously it was like the best dressing i’ve ever had and while your at it dip it in delicious melted manchego cheese sauce why not??
Another cocktail. I had two of these bourbon beauties.
Duck! with a perfect little soft yoke, shaved celery and pickled onion rounds. The duck was smoked to perfection, without being tough or over salted. and I think you know how I feel about pickled anything.
And finally Wagyu rib steak on a bed of bean and mustard seed. Actually this was our least fav. The bean was slightly overpowering, and the wagyu was not quite hot enough so the extra fat felt a little excessive. That’s Erin’s face!
And, despite the awesome little cup, this tea was served lukewarm. Booooooooo
For dessert: imagine a three dimensional creme brûlée rolled in edible leaves and rocks. That’s what you’re getting here. It’s a peanut butter mousse with a satisfyingly crisp chocolate shell. It was like eating the egg of a choco bird.
4 out of 5 Aemon-stars! They dropped the ball a couple times, but overall it was awesome.
June 27, 2015
The Frisco bills itself as a classic diner experience (since 1953). It’s wood-paneled and dimly lit. From the sea of silver we guessed we were there on the early side, or maybe that’s their demographic. The host was very friendly and easy going and were seated right away in a booth.
The only appetizer that looked Winslow friendly was the hummus and pita. The hummus and pita themselves were not bad, but they came with thse rough-hewn chunks of zucchini and cucumber. Who eats big pieces of raw zucchini? Anyway, Winslow loved this!
I ordered the ‘Famous Frisco’. A burger supposedly unmodified since 1953. Thousand Island, sweet relish, American cheese. It was very flat and easy on the mouth (soft bun and fixings), which I like. The sweet relish was surprising in a good way, but by the end of the burger I was kinda over it. Maybe 6/10? Not bad at all, but not as good as I expected from the ‘Famous’ description. Fries were meh.
The coleslaw was awesome! Vinegar based. Sweet peppers. And it was clear they marinated the cabbage for a long time – it was almost pickled.
Erin’s food. The brussel sprouts were laughably soft. Winslow gummed them to smithereens. Erin’s fav was the Mac & Cheese. The chicken strips were almost all breading – which is not a bad thing, but I think she missed the delicious, juicy chicken that one hopes to find inside.
Our waitress was delightful.
Get a load of this guy…
Food 2 out of 5 Aemon stars.
Service 4 out of 5 Aemon stars.
June 16, 2015
How did I not know there was a top-rated ramen place less than a mile from where we live!
I went by myself, at 5:30, on the brink of a tropical storm, and found it delightfully uncrowded. There are two types of ramen places: the ones where everyone is Japanese and the ones where everyone is a total hipster. This is the second kind. Seriously it’s like stepping through a Narnia portal to Brooklyn. There was a father of four, but he had a swing kids hairdo and sleeve tattoos so it was Ok. The young woman who took my order (at the counter) was very friendly. I ordered the #1, Tonkatsu, because it’s a classic, and sat down at the bar (they have table seating but it’s family style and I can’t enjoy food near strangers).
BAM. My ramen came out really fast and it looked awesome. Cloudy white pork broth with a thin veneer of toasted sesame oil. The noodles were just right, with the al dente, ropey texture that you want so that they don’t soak up the broth and get mushy.
Check out that egg! nice soft yolk. Clearly marinated in something as it had a delicious sweet taste. And see that soft bed of meat it’s nestled on? that’s the chashu (or pork as westerners would say), cooked to melt-in-your-mouth perfection.
4/5 Aemon stars. High quality food, quick service, friendly folks. It’s small inside, so I’d definitely avoid peak hours. A+ tropical storm treat.