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The Carillon introduces new spring menu, announces other changes

Matthew Odam
modam@statesman.com

I was in the Carillon recently for dinner and noticed a regular item missing for the first time (I believe) since the restaurant opened in 2008.

Gone was the hamachi with currant, hazelnut, celery and Fresno chili oil. In its place on the raw section of the menu was a new take on the fish. It is now Thai cured, with texture coming from puffed rice and bright notes of serrano and mint oil singing out atop a rich, savory black garlic barbecue sauce.

Also missing was the popular spicy pork belly diablo, served with crisp pear and fried mint. In its place was a seared pork belly served with leek custard, tomato jam, and fingerling potatoes. The desserts from Chef Plinio Sandalio also got an update, headlined by a wonderful guanaja terrine with banana anglaise, candied cashews, cashew dacquoise, and coconut custard.

The changes are part of a new spring menu at the New American restaurant inside the AT&T Executive Conference Center helmed by executive chef Josh Watkins. The spring menu also marks a slight change of course, with emphasis being placed on small plates served on a prix-fixe menu, with options of a four-course menu for $40, a five-course menu for $50, and a seven-course menu for $60.

“Our focus is still phenomenal cuisine and service, but we’re building more options for our guests into the experience through a refined and comfortable bar menu and a ‘build your own’ prix-fixe menu,” Watkins said. “At the end of the day, we all want options, choices, and above all else, the ability to taste as many things as possible.”

My dinner at the Carillon happily coincided with the menu change, and the experience reinforced for me the restaurant’s position as one of my top 10 in town. It’s also one of the most overlooked due to its location. But I find benefits in its location. You can avoid downtown and you get free parking (after validation) in the attached garage.

In addition to the spring dinner menu, the Carillon is also planning to introduce a new bar menu and cocktail list in the coming weeks, and the restaurant’s daily lunch buffet (which includes items such as achiote grilled chicken with tequila-lime beurre blanc, grilled mahi mahi with mango-pineapple salsa, and grilled striploin with mornay and fried parsley) is now open to the public.

Diners will notice some aesthetic changes in coming months, as well, as the Carillon will update its bar space and introduce new glass partitions to break up the massive dining room.

The Carillon is located at 1900 University Ave. in the AT&T Executive Conference Center and Hotel on the University of Texas campus. For more information, visit thecarillonrestaurant.com.