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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Barley Swine's Tasting Menu Delights Diners in Austin, Texas

The New York Times just published its top 25 restaurants in Austin list, officially cementing my beloved hometown as a top foodie destination in the United States, and I also love reporting on Austin, Texas' burgeoning culinary scene for you.


While Barley Swine was a notable and surprising omission from the Times' list, I recently was delighted by Chef Bryce Gilmore's $115 per person prix fixe tasting menu.


Chef Gilmore, of the Odd Duck empire, offers his periodically changing and seasonally-inspired nine-course tasting menu in a welcoming rustic setting on North Burnet Road.


A baked oyster with filling sits atop stones in a bowl at Barley Swine in Austin, Texas
Course #3 at Barley Swine: Baked Oyster

Please be aware that the tasting menu is the only offering at Barley Swine; however, the good news for discerning diners is that the current menu is posted on the Barley Swine website, so you know what to expect (although there may be slight alterations to the dishes depending on the night).


PRO TIP: If you are budget-conscious, be sure to catch Barley Swine's Happy Hour, where you enjoy $30 off the $115 tasting menu during the first 30 minutes of service on Thursdays (5:00-5:30pm) and Sundays (4:30-5:00pm).

I took advantage of the 25% Happy Hour discount, arriving Thursday at 5pm for my reservation.

You can make your Barley Swine reservations here.


There is a non-refundable $50 deposit per person when making your booking which is applied to your final dining bill.


Parking is available via free valet or in a small parking lot in the back. When the restaurant is busy, there can be a long line to enter the parking area.


A wall of bric-a-brac at luxury Austin, Texas restaurant Barley Swine
Entryway at Barley Swine

The entryway offers only a minimal glimpse of the restaurant inside, and as you make your way into the inner hearth of the restaurant, you realize that a majority of the seats face Barley Swine's open kitchen.


While my friend and I had a two person corner booth, there are 6 seats at the kitchen counter, which provide an exceptional view of the culinary action.


Diners sit at a table in front of the kitchen counter at Barley Swine in Austin, Texas
View of the Barley Swine Kitchen from Dining Room

PRO TIP: If you are a total foodie and would love to sit at the counter watching Barley Swine's open kitchen, I highly recommend this option.  This is without a doubt the best way to fully experience Barley Swine.  

Barley Swine's interior decor gave me a voodoo farmhouse vibe, with dried fish carcasses and garlic bulbs hanging from the ceiling, but the I found the unpretentious surroundings allowed me to focus on the outstanding cuisine.


As the evening progressed, all of the tables became occupied; however, the sound levels still allowed for casual conversation.


Here is the review of the Barley Swine menu that I enjoyed.


Current Menu for April 2024

Optional Beverage Pairings Available - MKT

Vegetarian & Pescatarian Menus Available Upon Request


Farm Bouquet

Smoked fish & daikon handroll, chévre and shiitake ranch, pecan dukkah


First course of lettuce roll with a chevre ranch on top of a crystal plate
Farm Bouquet

This upscale lettuce wrap finger food approximated an amuse bouche salad, and I loved the special chévre ranch dressing, which would be a sublime Super Bowl party dip.

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Cured Bluefin Tuna

Cured Bluefin tuna, brown butter sweet potato, mushroom dressing


Cubes of meaty bluefin tuna sit atop a bed of sweet potato puree
Bluefin Tuna Crudo

Every single bite of the delicious bluefin tuna was meaty and exquisite especially when paired with the sweet potato base. Pine nuts and pumpkin seeds provided a sophisticated crunch to the dish.

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Barrier Beauty Oyster


Baked oyster, hot sauce creamed broccoli, masa & coppa crumble


A baked Galveston oyster sits atop a bed of ocean pebbles
Baked Oyster

The cream of broccoli soup with the baked Galveston oyster made this seem like a bite-sized seafood stew served in an oyster shell bowl, and the presentation made you feel like you were at the seashore. The fried coppa provided a bacon-like crunch and flavor that perfectly complemented the dish.


I am typically not an oyster fan, but I could have demolished six of these.

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Pompano

Grilled pompano, turnip relish, pork belly, aerated sunchoke butter


A piece of pompano fish sits atop a creamy sunchoke butter puree
Pompano with Pork Belly Cubes

I was not familiar with Pompano fish, but it has a similar consistency as swordfish. Even better was the pairing with the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly cubes. Sized as small croutons, the pork belly lies in a thick roux of sunchoke butter. I would gladly devour an entire sandwich of the pork belly, a fact I mentioned to the waitstaff.

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SUPPLEMENTAL ITEM: Shiitake Dumplings with Soft Scrambled Eggs (+$16)


a plate of shiitake soup dumplings sits atop a bed of soft scrambled egg
Shiitake Soup Dumplings

We decided to add Barley Swine's house specialty soup dumplings as a supplement to the tasting menu.


At four to an order, they are ideal to share as a couple.


While these soup dumplings would have been tasty re-imagined as a pasta dish, the soup inside the dumpling was an unmemorable consommé and disappointingly did nothing to add to the flavor profile.


The consistency of the very soft scrambled eggs could be off-putting to some, but the course was fun to eat with the special spatulas they delivered. In fact, our server said that "things get wild once the spatulas show up."

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Muscovy Duck

Belle Vie Farms Muscovy duck, cured breast, duck leg mousseline, Black Pearl mushroom, spicy greens, preserved orange jus


A Plate of Duck Prepared in Three Different Fashions atop a bed of pesto and oil
Muscovy Duck

The poultry course was duck three ways, paired with orange and flavored oils. The rectangular duck mousselines were the best part of the dish.

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SUPPLEMENTAL ITEM: Duck Liver, Shrimp Toast, XO (+$16)


a large piece of foie gras sits atop shrimp toast and garnished with picked serranos
Duck Liver

This sumptuous foie gras was the perfect bite if you love rich duck liver. I adored the pickled serrano peppers on top.

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Akaushi Ribeye

40+ day dry aged Akaushi Ribeye, chile negro hot sauce, Brussels sprout chimichurri


A slice of 40-day aged Japanese ribeye paired with a brussel sprout chimichurri
Ribeye

While the 40-day aged ribeye was a superb cut of meat, I would have preferred a red wine reduction compared to the chile negro hot sauce. Furthermore, the Brussels sprout chimichurri did nothing for the dish except to overwhelm the steak with a bitter flavor.

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Donut

beer cheese, donut


Meat kebabs adorn a kolache-style meat donut at Barley Swine in Austin, Texas
Meat Donut

This was the biggest surprise on the menu, and my favorite course. When I initially reviewed the menu, I thought the Donut would be a dessert, but it was actually the final savory meat dish.


Meat filled the pastry exactly like a Texas kolache, and the glaze on the meat kebabs was orgasmic.


When a dish surprises and delights like this one, you know you have chosen your culinary destination well.

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Strawberry & Celery Dip n Dots

Green goddess fluff, strawberries


Celery and Strawberry Dip n Dots in a chilled serving glass
Luxury Dip n Dots

Piped ice cream into liquid nitrogen makes these luxury Dip n Dots a CROWD PLEASER.


I have never had celery prepared more deliciously in my life - what an ingenious way to eat your greens! Seriously, I need to make my morning green smoothie into Dip n Dots, and I will be digging it all day long.

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Sweet Potato Pavé

Oat cake, oatmeal cookie butter, cheddar


an oat cake sits on top of ice cream and oatmeal cooking crumbles
Sweet Potato Pavé

The final dessert tasted like pumpkin pie a la mode. Tasty, but not a show stopper finish.


That being said, I was finally full, and didn't need any more food.

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Additional Supplemental Menu Items Include:

Black River Caviar, Dashi Semifreddo, Potato Waffle Cookie

1/2 Dozen Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies (to take home)


Barley Swine does have an outdoor seating area, which looked lovely on the right night or for a special occasion.


Our service was EXEMPLARY. I even got a special private tour of Barley Swine's onsite backyard garden after my meal.


A cluster of green herbs at Barley Swine's own backyard garden
Barley Swine Backyard Herb Garden

Conclusion


For the Happy Hour price of $85 per person (excluding alcohol), Barley Swine is an absolute bargain for fine dining in Austin.


While I definitely got more of an autumnal vibe with the Spring menu, the dishes were sumptuous and inventive.


Furthermore, the staff went above and beyond to make sure this was an incredible experience for me.


My friend and I loved our corner booth with a view of the kitchen, and next time I plan to sit at the kitchen counter seats.


I hope you enjoyed my Barley Swine review. For more of my Austin, Texas restaurant reviews, click here.

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