Last Saturday night, Hank and I celebrated 6 months of married bliss with dinner at one of Austin's newer restaurants- Arro. Touted as "Casual French Bistro Fare", the same team behind 24 Diner and Easy Tiger has put together a truly exceptional experience. They make casual look very, very cool! The space occupies the former Haddington's- which was never all that impressive to me. The design team reworked the interior, opening up the dining room while still creating spaces with the use of mixed material. From reclaimed wood and metal, to painted rattan on cabinet doors, they were able to maintain the historical feel of the building while also creating a romantic, intimate feel.
**All photos taken directly from the Arro website. It was too dark (and we were enjoying date night too much) to take our own pictures.
We made reservations, and I'm glad we did as the restaurant was already pretty full at 7pm. I would have loved to have had time for a pre-dinner drink at the bar though. I mentioned painted rattan- and I seriously could not stop looking at the cabinets behind the bar, lit from the top and covered in these rattan doors. I swore to find a way to use them in our kitchen remodel.
Upon arriving, we were promptly seated at one of the high top tables against the reclaimed wood wall at the back of the restaurant. I had a great view of the kitchen (I love seeing the hustle and bustle behind the scenes), but could also people watch in the bar area. The room was dimly lit and just loud enough to create an interesting energy in the room. Our waiter greeted us, welcomed us to the restaurant, and went over a few highlights from the menu. He came across as genuinely interested in making our experience a good one. Having waited tables for many years myself, I always appreciate this. Bad service can ruin an entire meal, for sure.
When we were deciding on a restaurant for our date night we took a sneak peek of the menu, but somehow missed the Bread Pairings section. It's on the back of the menu, and should never ever be overlooked. Start there when planning your meal, unless you want to do what I did and end up eating nothing but bread and cheese for your dinner. It's not a bad thing, by any means, but I was ridiculously full by the end of the night.
Their bread comes fresh daily from Easy Tiger, but the highlight of the board was the salted whipped butter. Don't even bother with the other flavors offered. The plain butter was sinful, and I could have eaten the whole bowl all on my own. We paired it with two cheeses (from our favorite Antonelli's Cheese Shop) and house made pickled vegetables. This bread board told me everything I needed to know about what Arro was all about. Inspired, but simple, excellence. I think it's far easier to throw a bunch of ingredients together to make a complex dish, than it is to fully execute something as simple as butter into such a memorable part of the meal. Same with the pickled vegetables. They were brined in just the right mix of salt and spice, and added a fresh component to the board. We really could have stopped there (with a bottle of wine, of course) and gone home totally happy.
Thankfully we stayed for the remainder of our meal, and enjoyed a few more dishes. Hank chose steak frites for his dinner. The steak itself was probably the only low note of the meal. It was a little fatty for his taste. But the frites, served with a house made aioli, were out of this world. He opted for a roquefort butter sauce, which was a great compliment to the peppery steak.
I went with the prix fixe 3-course option, which you really don't see on enough menus in Austin. For $25, this is a stellar deal. I had french onion soup (which I shared), a Croque Provencal (vegetarian version) with a fried egg on top, and the dark chocolate pot de creme for dessert (which I reluctantly shared). I mentioned a lot of bread and cheese, right? It probably was too much, but that didn't take away from how delicious the sandwich was. The dessert though… I don't even know how to describe how perfectly it ended our meal. The orange meringue on top balanced the rich chocolate mousse. It was also the perfect portion for sharing.
With a long drive back to our neighborhood, we wanted to be responsible drivers. So we did not partake in any of the cordials that they offered. But I think this would be a fun experience to pair with dessert, and I absolutely love how they present them on a cart by the front door.
Overall, Arro seems to really get what their patrons are looking for. While it's not an inexpensive night out, it's also not a break-the-bank meal either. The portions, quality of the food, ambience and impeccable service all come together for a really nice experience. We value those things over most creative menu, or most hard to come by ingredients any day.