Bar Mirabeau opened in September 2012 as Part I of Chef Parind Vora’s ambitious new West 6th Street venture. (The second part of Vora’s project of course is his famed Restaurant Jezebel, which returns with a new prix-fixed, high end revamp after the original eatery tragically burned a few years back.) The spacious new restaurant/lounge encompasses the bottom floor of the Cirrus Logic building and includes substantial interior dining room/bar area, open kitchen and a dream of an outdoor patio space overlooking Shoal Creek.
This copious square footage is only matched in size by the extensive number of menus items for service at breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, and in the bar. As for the food, Bar Mirabeau focuses on new American style eats such as Southern-inspired small plates, grilled pizzas, and crowd-pleasing entrées. In addition to a huge number of offerings, there is specialty cocktail and cigar menu, which can be enjoyed during a daily supersized happy hour from 4:30-7:30pm.
With all Bar Mirabeau potentially has to offer, it pains me to report my visits to the restaurant have proved bigger isn’t necessarily better. On this particular occasion, I visited Bar Mirabeau with a group of friends for drinks and an early dinner.
Up first was a round of drinks. With an intriguing description promising a touch of ‘thyme-pink peppercorn’, we started with a round of the champagne cocktail. Instead of a cocktail laced in peppery spice, we unanimously found its overly sweet flavor to be better fit on the dessert menu than cocktail list. After then switching to wine, I was especially grateful for the extra 30 minutes of happy hour since as most glasses run between $10-$15 a pop.
For our food selections, we started with a cheese and charcuterie board comprised of a selection of cheeses, a housemade pate, bread and condiments. At first glance, the board’s lovely presentation set expectations high, but unfortunately it ended up missing the mark. Our two cheese options were fairly unmemorable but thankfully rescued by a delicious honey thyme topping. While I can’t argue with the plate’s generous portion of bread, several pieces were left soggy from too much oil and had a strong smoky flavor that overpowered the mild cheese and pate. The pate had a nice flavor but too dry and grainy to eat more than a bite.
Next up was the chicken meatball small plate, which ominously arrived in nanoseconds of being ordered. Though I fully understand most restaurants don’t make every dish to-order, it was very clear the meatballs had been made well in advance and left under a warmer. Not unexpectedly, the sauce on top of the meatballs had congealed to a paste, and the chicken was chewy and dry. Even so, had we received the meatballs freshly made, I’m not sure we would be singing the their praises as the actual flavors were lackluster at best.
Hoping the third time would be a charm, we ordered the crab cakes next. Between the plate’s appealing presentation and crispy fried coating, it was a solid step in the right direction, though not enough to entice us to delve further into the menu. Left dissatisfied by what we had tasted thus far, our group opted to move on to the next location to round out our dinner.
Like the menus, Bar Mirbeau’s aesthetic has a lot going on and not all of it necessarily good. The bones of its expansive space are modern and industrial with exposed ceilings, large windows and a cement floor. This cool, minimalistic space is contrasted with ornate, baroque décor in a way that lacks any continuity. The result is a space that feels cold and disjointed, especially when not overflowing with people. Service, for the most part, has been hit or miss, but on this particular adventure, it was the best it has been.
Needless to say, my experiences with Bar Mirabeau have not left me hungry for more. While I fully believe restaurants deserve to be viewed through rose colored glasses in their first few months, it is hard to overlook when things never seem to get any better on subsequent visits. Perhaps I’ll let Bar Mirabeau work out its kinks and wait for spring weather to take advantage of that amazing patio for outdoor cocktails. Until then…
Bar Mirabeau, West 5th Street, Austin, TX 78703. http://www.barmirabeau.com Monday – Friday 7-10am Breakfast, 11am-2pm Lunch, 5-10pm Dinner; Saturday 5-10pm Dinner; Sunday 10am-3pm Brunch