Fabi & Rosi in Austin

As a high school exchange student in Europe about hundred years ago, I developed a fondness for schnitzel, bratwurst, and sautéed cabbage. Germanic cuisine does not always offer the most sophisticated flavors, but it certainly sticks to your bones in a way that is particuarly satisfying when the temperature drops below 50 degrees in Texas.

So when a cold snap hit Austin in the middle of my weekend visit, I discarded my plans for a sushi dinner and went instead to Fabi & Rosi. Advertising itself as a European kitchen, the restaurant offers a menu inflected with French, Belgian, German and Austrian staples like feldsalat, a tagesuppe (daily soup), apfelstrudel and chèvre tarts.

Feeling gleefully piggish, or should I say, schweinisch, I ordered two starters and an entrée even though I was warned portions were sizeable.

First, we had some delightfully tender escargot bathed in butter, garlic, and dusted with breadcrumbs. Second, a spinach salad with candied pecans and blue cheese, which might have been pedestrian save the two generous slices of luscious, lightly seared PORK BELLY. If foie gras is meat butter, then pork belly is meat cream cheese. The crisp greens and sweet nuts offset the salty fattiness of the pork, and the blue cheese added a nice sour kick to the entire dish.

I debated quite a while over my entrée. The schitznel & spätzle looked promising and would definitely satisfy my longing for Austrian fare, but the waitress's pitch for the quail special ultimately won me over. Indeed, the two plump roasted quail sitting atop a cheesy polenta mountain laced with sweet pearl onions in berry juice were adorable. Not particularly European, as the birds were from Lockhart, but nevertheless delicious.

A word of warning to the unpunctual: we were half an hour late for our reservation and the hostess gave it to another couple, which meant an additional 45 minutes of waiting on a Saturday night. I wish they would have called us to confirm; next time, I won't be so laissez-faire. And I'll try the schnitzel.

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