parkside with Shawn Cirkiel

Shawn Cirkiel has been a star of the Austin restaurant scene since 2002 when he took over the wildly popular Jean Luc’s Bistro and made it his own.  His commitment then as well as now to local ingredients and creative presentation have garnered him legions of fans as well as critical acclaim including two trips to cook at the James Beard house.

Shawn’s latest restaurant, parkside, is a casual gastro pub intended to showcase his take on the New American Cuisine on 6th street in the heart of downtown Austin.  A recent trip for a celebratory dinner in honor of my friend Michelle was a delicious reminder of why parkside was named by Bon Appetit magazine as one of the “Hot 10 New American Taverns.”

First course was a sumptuous bite from the raw bar.  Instead of flowery descriptions, parkside lists this appetizer as:

madai, cherry gelee, toasted pistachio, fried basil

Madai, by the way, is a Japanese fish similar to snapper.  The slight sweetness from the gelee brought out a brightness in the firm white fish.  Notes of green from the basil and crunch of the pistachios rounded out the delightful first bite.

Next came a dozen oysters of three different varieties.  I should mention now that Wednesdays are my favorite night at parkside because the oysters and champagne are half price.  The raw bar offers a selection of at least half a dozen different oysters.  My favorite this trip were the Blue Points, very buttery and briny.

The gnocchi were light, little melt in your mouth pillows of a dumpling with an earthy mushroom medley and sauce.

Chef Cirkiel taught a class last fall at Central Market that included his recipe for a savory sweet potato soup topped with, wait for it——-  BACON MARSHMALLOWS!  The marshmallows were toasted brown on top so they melted into the soup and gave a little textural crunch.  It was probably one of my favorite bites of the year.  But new seasons bring new soups and Chef did not disappoint.  

Velvety corn chowder with bacon and chive fritters tasted like summer in a bowl.  The corn soup was pureed smooth and topped with lightly fried bacon fritters and a dash of chive oil for color.

Sides for the meal were 2 huge platters of fried okra and brussel sprouts.  The okra were lightly breaded and fried to a delicate balance of past golden brown but not overcooked to achieve a crispy perfection without even a hint of okra slime.  The brussel sprouts were heavily studded with chunky bits of bacon that gave a smoky flavor to the bright green sprouts.

Entree was the pan seared halibut pictured at the top of the post.  This lovely chunk of fish was perfectly cooked and fell into beautiful flakes with the touch of a fork.  Honestly, I was falling rapidly into a food coma but being a pastry chef, I had to forge ahead!

We had a nice goat cheesecake topped with fresh strawberries.  There was a plain tuille cookie on the plate that seemed like an afterthought but the standout was the basil ice cream.  It was the palest of green with a slightly herbal flavor.  My favorite was the warm chocolate brownie with toffee ice cream and pecan tuille.  Sweet, crunch, soft, cold, warm, chocolate all in one bite.  A perfect end to an orgy of food.  Thank you, Chef!

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