It’s been a long time since we read a negative review from the Austin Chronicle’s Virginia B Wood.
The reasons are obvious. The revenue stream at her employer’s paper would suffer if she started taking restaurants down for being of poor quality.
If we remember correctly the last bad review we can recall is when she pile drived Y Bar And Grill out in Oak Hill close to a decade ago.
It needed to happen. At the point Wood reviewed the restaurant, it was a shadow of its former glory. All the talent in the kitchen that had made it into a hot spot had long since vanished after tiring of owner Jean-Pierre Piaget’s laissez faire attitude towards food quality.
The restaurant had went from showing flashes of brilliance to being an also-ran and it happened overnight.
So we read with great interest Wood’s take on Vivo, the Tex Mex restaurant out in the Lake Creek area of Northwest Austin.
Critic Wood starts with some typical puffery. Paul Petersen, the guy who ran Little Texas Bistro out in Buda a million years ago is the new chef so Wood goes about stroking him for a bit.
The guy can actually cook so it’s a point well taken.
But then Ms. Wood flurries like an enraged house cat on owner Roger Diaz’ attempt to make a hip little spot out of a plaza space in an anonymous suburb.
Here are some select tidbits from the poison pen letter the critic wrote in the morning paper.
“We approached what we thought was a suburban strip-mall Mexican restaurant and found ourselves in a tacky, dimly lit nightclub wannabe instead.”
We haven’t made it out to the Vivo in Northwest Austin just yet. We could throw a rock and hit the one on Manor Road and have only visited a handful of times in its multi year run. It’s not our thing, food wise but we do like the naked women pictures and dj fueled hi jinx that goes on in the joint on the weekend.
It’s a party.
“The walk to our table revealed that the restaurant is decorated with large, garish oil paintings of female nudes.”
It’s really a saving grace-the naked pictures. The food is not that good but drinking a stiff tequila cocktail and looking at naked women….well, there are worse ways to spend a Saturday night.
“….the DJ in the bar began blaring pulsating dance music……The obnoxious decibel level made dinner conversation all but impossible……we complained to a manager about the music”
We’re still a few years from our dotage so we’re having a hard time relating to the problem of loud music being played in a restaurant on a weekend night. There are a few spots around town that we plain, don’t go to-because the music is so bad we just can’t enjoy ourselves.
It’s an owners right to play REM for instance but when we hear that sort of caterwauling we arise and retire to a more honorable establishment.
That’s the way to conduct yourself. Whether you’ve already placed your order or not. It matters little. This is how you vote. With your wallet.
Bad music? Get up and leave. Problem solved.
But critic Wood is made of some pretty tough stuff so she goes into a soldier mode reminiscent of Richard Harris in the 70’s actioner; The Wild Geese.
She reaches into a vast reserve of will power and begins to eat.
“Excellent food was the evening’s only saving grace.”
Well played Ms. Wood, now we can get down to the brass tacks: The Food. Lord knows we can spill 1500 words on the type of flooring a restaurant has before we eat so much as a tortilla chip so we’re all guilty of the same thing from time to time.
But let’s remember; for most people eating out, it’s the food that tells the real story.
Apparently Chef Petersen is firing on all cylinders in his new kitchen.
Wood: “Each plump, perfectly cooked shrimp nestled on a blue corn tostada under a mantle of poblano-cream sauce and melted Manchego cheese made a delectable bite.”
That makes us hungry.
More: “Chef Petersen’s skill as a pit master is evident in his brisket – tender, smoky shreds of beef are packed into enchiladas under a coating of expertly rendered chile gravy and melted cheese. It’s one of the best plates of authentic Tex-Mex cooking I’ve tasted in years – don’t miss it!”
There you go. That’s the kind of writing that makes me want to do a burn out to get to a restaurant and start eating.
But with her closing salvo of “I can’t help but hope that Petersen’s next restaurant offers a better showcase for his skills.” Wood leaves no doubt what’s on her mind.
It’s time for Chef Petersen to get the hell out of Dodge.
Who’s been to Vivo Lake Creek?
How was the food?
Did the decor fill you with the sort of dull rage that inspired the tirade critic Wood went on in this week’s Chronicle?
12233 RR 620