Image Shamelessly Borrowed from Truluck’s Website
During the Holidays my wife. daughter and I try to go to at least one fine dining establishment to celebrate. Regardless of whatever’s going on in our family or in the world, we always know there’s plenty to be thankful, even joyous, about.
Lessee; this year there’s Jessi’s graduation, winning a State competition in music, her first great semester at college, a week in Hawaii, a job we didn’t lose, a bonus, some contracts we got, and a couple of wedding anniversaries. (I’d tell you why there’s more than one, but then I’d have to run for my life.) Is that enough?
This year we chose Truluck’s Seafood, Steak and Crab House. And boy are we glad we did!
Truluck’s is in a building that once housed another of our favorite eateries, Grady’s American Grill. They made something called Tobacco Onions that were the best fried onions we’d ever had, before or since. But once they took them off the menu (and off our steaks), we quit going to Grady’s and soon thereafter they closed.
Moral: Don’t make my wife mad by taking her favorites off the menu!
Such an Amazing Photo; From Truluck’s Website
Truluck’s is actually a collection of eight restaurants scattered about in Texas and Florida. We’re fortunate here in Austin to have two. In addition to the dining locations, Truluck’s operates their own crab fishery. Florida Stone Crab legs are flown in fresh to all locations (except Naples, FL, which is right by the fishery). It’s hard to get seafood fresher than that, even if you catch it yourself!
I must admit: I’m hesitant about eating in seafood places. I go because my wife and daughter like fish and shellfish; I personally don’t get along, biochemically speaking, with exoskeletal eats.
Most restaurants that do seafood well are mediocre at best with their steak preparations. Truluck’s is an exception to that experience, as I found out.
The ladies went in while I screeched rubber to get the last parking slot parked the car. We were warmly greeted upon arrival, and when I saw the attendance I was glad I’d made reservations! (Most places in Austin don’t take them anymore, or they do a waitlist sort of thing. Me, I’m old-fashioned; I like having reservations for big events.) No emply tables, no open booths, no empty stools in the bar, even.
Okay, I said to myself, “Self, that’s a good sign.” And the food I saw on the way in also made me feel good about choosing Truluck’s. Lots of smiling faces in the crowd! The place is warmly decorated, cozy without being stuffed, lots of wood and stone.
Music throughout the restaurant was provided by the piano player in the bar, and he’s good. (I roomed with a top-flight keyboard specialist in college, I know what the good stuff sounds like.) A wide variety of great sounds, from light Holiday music to “Linus and Lucy” by Vince Guaraldi. Mood without intrusion.
We started out with, well, starters. Paula Jo had a luscious-looking crabcake (I didn’t say I didn’t like the taste or the way the stuf looks!), and I had a salad. Actually, it was a stuffed hothouse tomato. A big one; made me flash back to that Kliban drawing, “Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head.” A tasty tomato, cored and then stuffed with slivered red onions, bacon and cheese, with plenty of creamy buttermilk dressing, shaved Parmiggiano on top, with more bacon bits. And a little dill for garnish. The thing’s practically a meal in itself! And did I mention the bacon? Applewood smoked bacon?
With a start like that, I knew we were in for a splendid dining extravaganza.
There are lots of other appetizer choices, as well as soups and salads to help you get ready for the main courses.
Stone Crab Claws; From Truluck’s Website
Our server, Elsa, came by with this monster platter heaped with example crab legs. Not toys or plastic renditions; the real thing. Beautifully colored, ready to eat. It’s a good thing they have their own supply! They also serve Dungeness and King Crab legs, in season. In fact, the menu is regularly adjusted to accomodate whatever’s fresh; visit the website before going for the latest versions. (Wear a drool bib.)
There is an awesome selection of fish, shellfish, steak and chicken entrées on Truluck’s menu. (Each restaurant is a little different, I hear.) We finally settled on the following: Jessica had the free-range chicken, Paula Jo had snapper, and I had tenderloin medallions.
The chicken was roasted to perfection, with Nueske’s Bacon, leeks and roasted fingerling potatoes to round out the entrée. A nice supply of pan sauce, rosemary-orange flavored, completed the plating. A very elegant meal!
PJ’s large dish (platter might be more apt) showed up with pan-seared Gulf Red Snapper onboard, topped with crabmeat and braised mushrooms. A sweet tomato-butter sauce enhanced the flavors. Paula wasn’t too sure she’d like the sauce, but once she tasted it, she changed completely over; now I have to go figure out how to make that sauce for the (near) future.
My tenderloin medallions were ideally grilled, medium without being dry. The server actually shined a penlight on one while I cut into it, to be sure it was the way I liked. It looked right, and as soon as I got the first bite shoveled in I knew I had chosen well. As my dad used to say, “Don’t close your eyes or you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.”
My entrée was accompanied by two herb-filled potato patties, topped with a creamy leek mash. and piled high with what looked like: Tobacco Onions! Paula Jo was immediately jealous. Well, they weren’t quite, but they were close! A plentiful portion too. I think I know what she’s having next time.
Because some of us were having fish, I ordered a Columbia Winery Cellarmaster’s Riesling to accompany. I don’t mind white wine with steak, so it was a suitable choice. Reasonably priced, too; it appears that Truluck’s doesn’t gouge on their wine charges (like maybe others do). They have a very nice selection, too, over 100 labels including bubbly for “that special occasion.”
Each of us found we had plenty of food; “Texas-sized” would be a proper description of the quantity. To add insult to injury, we were seated where we could see the dessert show platters. They looked awesome, most of them easily fit for two. Alas, we were all way too full to consider even sharing a dessert.
Keep that in mind for your next romantic snack, though. You can stop in after the opera or cinema, order an appetizer and a dessert, a little wine, and canoodle to your heart’s content. (Ask for the back booth; they don’t have rooms.) Who knows what could happen after that; maybe even some dancing.
Overall, we were extremely pleased with our evening at Truluck’s. Thanks to Elsa, Samantha and the rest of the hard-working crew at Truluck’s Arboretum. With a clear 10 chiles (out of 10) for great food and phenomenal service, we’ll be back…
Enjoy the (Tasty Seafood & Steaks) Heat!
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