One of the BarFlys recently had to travel to Austin, Texas for a business conference (yes, the BarFlys have real jobs — something has to pay for all of this eating and drinking). With a limited number of days for dinner, we went to Barley Swine to indulge in a group meal, occupying one of the communal tables in the famed gastropub that only seats 42. Open for about two and a half years, Barley Swine’s award-winning Owner-Chef Bryce Gilmore heads up a team dedicated to providing farm-to-table inventive small plates, meant to be shared. They also have a killer beer list featuring drafts and bottled beers in small and large formats (and some wine too).
The decor is quite rustic with plenty of distressed wood featured, but this was the only rustic part of the whole dining experience:
There were only 11 plates on the menu and a couple of specials on the board. Since we had a larger group of seven, we ended up ordering two plates of almost everything to share amongst the carnivores, and we thank the restaurant for gamely accommodating the two vegans that were with us. Chef Gilmore got his culinary degree in San Francisco and worked at Boulevard (among other places) before moving back home to Austin to open Barley Swine and the soon to be opened Odd Duck (which had operated from a popular trailer). Reminiscent of many of the farm-to-table restaurants in San Francisco, the plates at Barley Swine are as tasty as they are beautifully plated.
The beets, avocado, cucumber, harissa and popcorn was an interesting combination with unexpected flavors that did go together when a bit of everything was eaten in one bite:
We decided to forego the wine list and took the opportunity to taste several beers, including ones from Italy and the Dogfish Head Noble Rot (front beer):
The fried soft shell crab was served with some first crop of peaches, zucchini slices and set on a deviled egg base:
Sweet rainbow carrots spiced with ancho chile was served on a goat cheese base. The panisse frite square made with fried chickpea flour was a welcome surprise. The vegans liked the dairy-free version of this dish so much that they re-rounded with it prior to dessert:
The scrambled egg dish was served with shiitake mushroom dumplings and tasty trout roes hidden within the almond crisp towers:
Lamb bologna with peanuts and small squares of bacon gel were served with a chilled pea soup poured table-side. The bologna bites were good, but the bacon gel was a rare miss that didn’t quite work for us with the strange texture:
A chalkboard special, the tater tots with house-made bacon was topped with a decadently rich cheddar and potato cream sauce. The delicious contents of this dish disappeared quickly:
A halibut cheek was served with yellow wax and green beans, morel mushrooms and French-style gnocchi squares. Lightly flavored with dill and fennel pollen, the fatty fish was very rich and tasty:
Pig was represented three ways: tenderloin, roast shoulder slices and as a crispy trotter cake. Served with swabs of refried lentils, yogurt and very tasty dates, the one swine dish on the menu was a great representation of the restaurant:
We were getting pretty full between the beer and all of the food at this point, but we had to make room for the Wagyu beef loin served with sweet corn pudding broccoli, radish and shaved goat milk:
Foie Gras is banned in California, so we had to get the duck chalkboard special even though we barely had room. The duck was served as delicious confit squares, perfectly cooked sliced breast and its liver in mousse form. Rhubarb with strawberry sauce and pistachio bits provided more flavor and crunch:
On to desserts which were used to fill in any cracks we had leftover in our bellies. The first featured peach in a whiskey sauce served with goat milk sorbet and white chocolate:
The lemon tart with roobibos tea sorbet was equally tart and sweet. Basil in several forms (sauce, pudding and meringue kisses) added a nice savory touch:
Lastly, the chocolate ganache served with buttermilk gelato and pecan cakes was rich and satisfying. Flavored with sarsaparilla, some bites were reminiscent of a root beer float:
We did a lot of damage by eating all of that food and drinking a lot of beer, some of which is shown here:
With a name like Barley Swine, they definitely delivered on the grain (in drink form) but we would have expected more pork on the menu and were pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t the case. All of the dishes were great, with some of us thinking that each new plate was better than the last (as if that were possible).