The Austin Chronicle

Fion Wine Pub & Bistro

Reviewed by Wes Marshall, February 27, 2009, Food

2900 N. Quinlan Park Rd. Ste. A-150, 266-3466 (pub), 266-0049 (bistro)
Tuesday-Friday, 11am-12mid; Saturday, 11am-1am; Sunday, 1pm-12mid

The folks living around Steiner Ranch have a nice little treasure in the Fion Wine Pub & Bistro. The concept is just a bit different than the type of wine bar that's been popping up around Austin lately. Like the others, it has a good selection of wines (600 different wines, says its website), mostly priced just a touch higher than a retail outlet would charge, and you are welcome to either take it home or have a staffer pop the top for you to drink the wine on the premises, with no corkage fee.

But a few things immediately set Fion apart from the normal wine bar. First, its beer selection, reportedly over 500 strong, is much more than just an afterthought. It includes some very uncommon Belgian and Lambic brews in larger-sized bottles, all ice cold and ready to drink. The wine pub also has four doors of a walk-in cooler devoted to single beers for $3.50 each for consumption there, or you can pick among them to make your own custom six-pack ($8.95, for takeout only). Second, Fion offers a simple program for wine explorers. See a bottle of wine you'd like to try? As long as you will agree to buy two glasses, a staffer will open it (excluding Champagne). Each glass will be one-third of a bottle and will cost one-third the price of the bottle.

Fion's other difference comes in its food program. Like other wine bars, it offers a variety of foods, but the bistro's kitchen has more elaborate ambitions than most. It offers two distinct concepts, though you can get either in both the bar/store area and in the bistro. The bar and late-night menu is high-end pub grub with an extra dash of creativity and offers items such as a cast-iron-skillet-seared 12-ounce skirt steak on crisp bread with caramelized onions and house fries ($11.95) or fresh Texas jalapeños stuffed with pork, chorizo, and queso served with seasonal grilled fruit ($6.95). The bargain on this list is the roasted lamb sliders, topped with mint pesto and served with house-made fries ($6.95), which were three slider-size lamburgers, juicy and full of lamb flavors and a superb match with a Consilience Petite Sirah ($29.95).

The main menu features much more complicated food aimed squarely at a more sophisticated audience, such as the fantastic Shiner Bock-steamed Prince Edward Island mussels with spicy Elgin sausage and crusty bread ($10.50). Here, the mussels were plump and juicy, never rubbery, and the broth had us asking for more bread for dipping. Had it been hotter, we would have lingered over this dish, but it was just at the high end of warm, so we had to rush a bit. The fried calamari ($10.95) was light and crispy, and the frying was timed flawlessly for perfect texture.

Our main courses also showed real creativity in the kitchen. We selected Mia's Meatloaf served with buttermilk mashed potatoes, green beans, and spicy cornbread ($14.95) and the 16-ounce skillet-seared double-cut pork chops with caramelized onions, Gorgonzola cheese, and demi-glace ($18.95). The meatloaf had a nice homemade texture and richness, and the potatoes tasted like they had been mashed fresh for the plating. For pork chop lovers, Fion's version is everything you could hope for: juicy, tender, and full of flavor. They tasted lovely with the caramelized onions and demi-glace.

Fion's wine-by-the-glass program has more than 60 wines by the glass, available either as a full glass or in a flight of three wines. All are well chosen and offer fair value, but the best was the Isle of Capri ($9), three Italian white wines ideally suited to the calamari. The important thing is that since the wine and beer are at retail instead of the normal restaurant markups, wine lovers will save a lot of money compared to a restaurant. Fion also has imported and local cheeses and not only a nicely stocked cigar humidor but a pleasant outdoor area to relax with a smoke and a glass of Port.

The creativity is here, both in the imaginative cooking and the great selection of adult libations, and the owners are coming up with deals – happy hours, case discounts, and wine and beer specials – that will help the careful consumer save money. Fion is well worth a visit, and for those on the west side of town, the second Fion will be opening soon, next to the new Zoot on Bee Caves Road.

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