Saturday, March 10, 2012

Papi Tino's (Fork it over, Austin! - Part 14)

The rest of the Tasted Menu team arrived last night, and we planned a group dinner at Papi Tino's, a Mexican cantina that had been featured in the recent New York Times article, "36 Hours in Austin, Tex." (What's with the old school three-letter abbreviation for Texas? The NYT style guide is weird sometimes.)

It was just a little bit further down 6th Street in East Austin, a block or so past my new favorite pizza. We tried to find it on foot in the rain - too many people vying for taxis now - and after initially passing it, we finally found the small white house. I didn't notice any signage. If it hadn't been raining, it would have been absolutely lovely to dine outside at one of the small tables scattered around the front yard. The interior ambiance was not disappointing in the least, though. From the gorgeous wooden walls to the live music to the candlelight, the ambiance was intimate and romantic. No offense to my colleagues, but I would have preferred to go here for a nice date night with Joel, who is sadly back in Boston (although apparently enjoying better weather!) There were several other large groups as well, but the noise level and tiny round tables lend themselves better to smaller groups.

For our first round of drinks, I went for something called, if I remember correctly, the Devil's Bowtie, a girly pink drink made 'a la diabla' with the addition of habanero-infused tequila. It had just enough spice to keep me on my toes. The interesting part about a spicy drink is the painful cycle of drinking, feeling the heat and seeking refreshment by taking another big sip, and then remembering that that's the thing that caused the pain in the first place. And so on.


Then, we ordered enough appetizers - botanitas - to cover every available centimeter of our little table.

guacamole topped with panela cheese

ceviche con mango

champiƱon relleno: large portabella mushroom stuffed with chopped seasonal vegetables in a Mexican crema fresca with a hat of queso gratinado 

chilaquiles:  totopos with salsa verde, tossed with shredded chicken, melted cheese, and crema fresca

betabel rasurado:  thinly sliced steamed beets with mango, blue cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar
The chilaquiles were the table favorite due the amazingly delicious salsa verde; the other dishes ranged from acceptable to pretty good.

Most of the table ordered enchiladas for the main course, while Jen ordered an eggplant dish and I got camarones a la diabla (to go with my drink!): grilled shrimp in a spicy peanut salsa on a bed of mango and avocado.




At this point, people were moving on to second drinks (including a michelada, which we all determined we definitely didn't like), so I decided to venture into the extensive mezcal selection. I've never had mezcal before, so I settled on the Monte Alban (described as having hints of white pepper, jicama, and pineapple) and hoped for the best.


...and then my legs stopped existing and my brain went to another dimension. Mezcal yields a pretty amazing state of intoxication. It's immediately calming and mellowing. I was instructed to wait until morning before writing a daily recap post for the company blog.

We ended with some desserts, which were mostly unnecessary, although I did enjoy the house-made peanut ice cream. Everything was topped with Hershey's chocolate syrup and strawberries, though, and all three dishes seemed like an afterthought.




Although none of the individual dishes really blew me away, this was actually one of my favorite meals of the trip. The overall experience, particularly the ambiance (and probably the mezcal), was memorable, and I'd definitely make a point to come back here on a future visit.

Other posts in the Fork it over, Austin! series:
Part 1: Whip In
Part 2: Foreign & Domestic
Part 3: Caffe Medici
Part 4: Walking Along SoCo and Lunching at Chi'Lantro
Part 5: The Capitol, UT Austin, and Lunching (Again) at Torchy's Tacos
Part 6: Museum of the Weird
Part 7: Uchi
Part 8: East Side King at The Grackle
Part 9: Franklin Barbecue
Part 10: Flagship Whole Foods and My First Green Smoothie
Part 11: Late Night Pizza at Via 313
Part 12: Kebabalicious
Part 13: My Robotic Kitchen Planned This Dinner Party
Part 15: Annie's Cafe & Bar
Part 16: The Peached Tortilla
Part 17: Cupcake Quest: Hey Cupcake!
Part 18: Arancini
Part 19: The DeLorean, Boxing Robots, and Roller Derby Pillow Fights
Part 20: Second Bar + Kitchen
Part 21: Tia Kelly's Navajo Tacos
Part 22: Hopdoddy Burger Bar
Part 23: Gourdough's
Part 24: The Ice Cream Social
Part 25: Walking to Barton Springs
Part 26: Izzos Tacos

I'm also posting daily recaps on the Tasted Menu blog, FOOD=LOVE:
Day 1: A First Taste of Austin
Day 2: Tons of Tacos, Sushi at Uchi, and a Late Night Trip to East Side King
Day 3: Early Morning Barbecue and Late Night Pizza
Day 4: Globetrotting: Kebabs, Enchiladas, Pommes Frites
Day 5-6: Meeting and Eating

Papi Tino's on Urbanspoon

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