400A West 2nd Street
Austin, TX 78701
Phone: (512) 499-0300
Hours: Lunch: Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., Dinner: Daily 5-11 p.m.,
Brunch: Sat.-Sum. 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
La Condesa is a sexy, vibrant hotspot bringing a bit of Mexico City to downtown Austin. The award-winning interior features see-and-be-seen glass walls, street-art inspired murals, and beachy wooden accents with punches of color and tropical plants. Inspired by the hip, fashionable Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, La Condesa is at once sleek, energetic, and inventive.
We visited La Condesa at the far edge of happy hour on a weekday evening. The bar was bustling with younger, beautiful people and just-off-work business types sipping on formidable margaritas and specialty drinks. The Latin-inspired beverage offerings at La Condesa include Austin’s largest selection of blue agave tequilas (over 100). The bar is lively, and makes for excellent people watching.
Once we moved to the dining room, we decided to start with the Pate de Higado. This starter featured a creamy, lusch duck foie gras pate that was served with grilled rustic bread and paired with house made escabeche and a tomato marmalade. The creamy, metallic hint to the pate was expertly enhanced by the sweet, tart marmalade. The pickled red onion of the escabeche offered a welcome crunch, tanginess, and spice. This playful yet elegant dish was an impressive start to our meal.
We then moved on to the Croquetas de Bacalao. This crispy fritters of salt cod were paired with delicate Ottmer Family farm squash blossoms, tequila poached rhubarb, and a delicate crema. The harmony of textures from crispy to delicate was exquisite, with a lush, creamy center. The croquetas were evocative, luscious, and flavorful.
We then moved on to the Vuelve a la Vida (“Come Back to Life”) ceviche, a marriage of velvety scallops, tuna, mussels, and clams with oak-grilled tomatoes and citrus. The ceviche was punched up with smoked chiles and horseradish, resulting in a tangy, spicy concoction accented by crispy red onions.
Finally, we moved on to the Pato Con Mole Negro. This dish, perhaps more than any other, illustrated the traditional meets contemporary Mexican skills of Chef Rene Ortiz and his kitchen. The dish featured a duck breast and confit leg drizzled with a smoky, strong three-day mole that is dusted with toasted sesame seeds. The duck was perfectly cooked. The mole was spicy and rich, and perfectly offset by a delicate crema.
Ideally, restaurants are an experience, an escape. A diner feels as if he or she has walked through the doors and into another time or place. La Condesa is one of those special places where a step through the door really is akin to walking into another world. From the beachy, colorful interior to the exotic drinks to the seductive, exotic plates, La Condesa feels like a jaunt to Mexico City. La Condesa manages to juggle hip, elegant, and playful with expert preparation, beautiful plating, and a casual coolness that is inviting and sexy without ever being cliche.