el Alma restaurante bar
Disclosure: I received a complimentary dining experience and drinks from el Alma restaurante bar. Subsequently, I attended a Yelp Elite Rooftop happy hour with complimentary food and drinks. All opinions are my own.
I had the extreme pleasure of dining at el Alma restaurante bar last week and the only two things on my brain right now are: 1. Why/how had I never been before? and 2. When can I go back?!
Seriously one of the best meals I’ve had in the ATX…ever. This ain’t Tex-Mex folks, and I’m not even inclined to isolate it as strictly Mexican fare. It is so much more than that…and I’m just talking about the food. More on the ambiance and service later.
Chef Alma Alcocer, originally from Mexico City later trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, elevates the flavors and foods of her heritage with classical techniques to create the most mouthwatering dishes (see Duck Rellenos below).
Upon arrival, we walked through the door, were greeted with huge smiles and welcomes, and were seated immediately in the completely full restaurant by our darling waitperson (whose name completely escapes me; shame on me for not writing it down).
I began the evening with the special margarita of the day El Zumo Rojo with blood orange puree. The accompanying gent had a local craft beer from Austin Beerworks.
House chips and salsas were delivered to the table and…wow! As the first bite of the tomatillo sauce hit my tongue, my eyes opened wide and a grin came across my face. Things like this are an afterthought at most restaurants, but not at el Alma. So fresh, so tangy, so creamy, so please give me an entire bowl of it! When speaking to Alma later in the evening she told me “it’s just the way I grew up with,” as if she had just opened a jar or something. She also told me a secret ingredient, so don’t tell anybody else okay? Shhhh…a bit of avocado is blended in. 🙂 The smokey red was just as good, with lots of Mexican oregano coming though, and offered a little more heat.
Next, while perusing the menu I found myself wanting everything on it. Tacos? Enchiladas? What appetizer? The gent and I had narrowed down our choices to a few items, but were still undecided. Our darling waitperson – I’m just going to call her Darling from here on out – was very helpful in guiding us to choose great plates.
The Ahi Tuna Ceviche Tostadas were truly the perfect appetizer for two. Extra crispy corn chips topped with large chucks of fresh fish, with creamy guacamole and grilled pineapple.
Even with Darling’s help, the gent and I could not make up our minds about the main courses. We had narrowed it down to two, so we did what any civilized couple would do – we each ordered what the other wanted and decided to share. Lol.
The Duck Rellenos was plated beautifully, covered in a delicious chiptole tomato salsa and a drizzle of crema, with pickled red onions, crunchy almonds, served with white rice. I must premise by stating that I don’t like rice. I rarely eat it, but there was even something magical about rice. Yes, rice. I didn’t want to fill up with it; however, I kept finding myself going back for another bite. Hmm. Now, onto the duck portion of the party on a plate.
This is where Chef Alma’s incredible background comes into major play. The duck was melt in you mouth good with hints of cinnamon, maybe some nutmeg. Very complex while in no way being conflicted. Later, while speaking to Chef, she told me of their twice cook method for the duck. The first “cooking it in it’s own fat” – aka confit – then roasting it. Très magnifique! Muy magnífica! And, the poblano was stuffed with so much duck we honestly could have shared it alone – although I wouldn’t recommend it. Ha!
Onto our other choice of the evening, the Grilled Lamb Chops. Cooked to perfection served with amazing piloncillo glazed sweet potatoes and a stunning tomatillo pumpkin seed sauce. Could I choose a favorite between the two? Nope, so doesn’t even ask me. Sorry.
Even though the gent aren’t really big on sweets, he is a huge sucker for flan. At el Alma restaurante bar, the flan is “seasonal” and was mango at the time of our visit. I took one bite for the sake of and…it happened again. Just like with the tomatillo salsa, I was in awe of the flavor and texture, making sure each bite coated my entire palate before swallowing. I ended up eating half of it.
Yes, the food was outstanding. The drinks were tasty. The service was impeccable without being pretentious. I felt like I was in someone’s home – if that home was built into the side of a natural stone wall in a multi-leveled kind of funky structure that includes rooftop dining with views of the Austin skyline. Yeah, I’m a fan. A huge fan. HIGHLY RECOMMEND!
Check out the el Alma’s unique rooftop patio with scenic views:
I had the pleasure of attending a special rooftop happy hour with tasty appetizers, a custom taco bar, and lovely drinks as an Austin Yelp Elite. Take the “stairway to heaven” [shown above] to the open air patio. Several tables to choose from with umbrellas and misters to keep it cool.
1025 Barton Springs Road
Make reservations HERE.
el Alma restaurante bar is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week; brunch available Saturday and Sunday 10am-3pm.
Hours: Mon-Thu 11am-10pm; Fri11am-11pm; Sat 10am-11pm; Sun 10am-10pm
Happy Hour available every day 3-6pm. Click HERE for details.
Visit ATX area craft brewery Family Business Beer Co