Sunday meals in Austin are evolving. Whether its mid-day brunch to kick off Sunday Funday, or the “Sunday Supper” meals that seem to be popping up at our favorite restaurants around town, food on Sunday tends to take on a special significance.
At La Condesa, you get the best of both worlds with the Sunday Cena family-style seasonal menu from 5-10 PM, to complement their already stellar Sunday brunch.
This summer, Executive Chef Rick Lopez is featuring a special family-style dinner with goat prepared four ways: croquette, grilled loin, crispy ribs and shredded barbacoa. The meal is prepared with freshly handmade tortillas de maiz (corn), borracho beans soaked in Tecate beer, cured cactus, habanero salsa that packs a punch and avocado.
Not enough goat for ya? This Sunday Cena wraps things up with a delectable dessert: butterscotch cajeta (made with goat’s milk) blondie with chevre ice cream.
Each meal is specially prepared in advance, so reservations must be made specifically for Sunday Cena.
So what is it that makes dining on Sunday so special? Why are Austin’s culinary elite bringing out their best? The answer is firmly rooted in family tradition. Most cultures have at least one big meal over the weekend, when the entire family gets together for a house specialty. It’s a chance for Mama’s cooking to shine while the family gears up for another week ahead.
Growing up in a Mexican household, we usually had our big Sunday meal for breakfast. Every Sunday morning, my grandmother would wake up early to start preparing dozens of handmade flour tortillas, not knowing who or even how many of us would show up. Fortunately, with five children of her own and bundles of grandchildren, she never had an empty house. If we arrived early enough, we were treated to barbacoa with piping hot flour tortillas rolled by Grandma herself. Stragglers had to “settle” for chorizo tacos or just quesadillas, if we had already exhausted our supply of a few dozen eggs.
The point was that the entire family had a standing reservation on Sunday mornings at Grandma’s. This is where we all gathered for no other reason than to simply be together and share a great meal.
That feeling, that atmosphere, is exactly what La Condesa has successfully recreated with Sunday Cena.
The restaurant owners were shooting for an authentic, yet modern, Mexican theme, so they chose the name La Condesa which owes its roots to a trendy neighborhood in central Mexico City. The menu is bursting with classic Mexican fare like several varieties of ceviche, huaraches (corn base), mole and chile rellenos. To kick things off, the guacamole and salsa sampler, with four different styles of each, is a must try.
The wood-fired taquitos, though small portioned, are about as authentic as you can get with the cochinita pibil tacos being the star attraction.
Back to Sunday Cena, however. The goat on the menu is prepared four different ways:
1. Croquette Style – This was my first time trying goat this way. The croquettes were deep fried with shredded goat on the inside. Though unconventional, the croquettes were crunchy on the outside and perfectly cooked inside.
2. Grilled Loin – The tenderness of the goat stands out when cooked this way. The meat can be a bit gamey at times, but still filled with flavor.
3. Crispy Ribs – Think Korean-style BBQ ribs, only with goat. I was impressed by the ribs prepared this way, as the exterior was perfectly caramelized and the goat meat was tender enough to easily split from the bone.
4. Barbacoa – The most traditional preparation method also happened to be my favorite. The shredded goat done in barbacoa style was slow-cooked to perfection. Mix with a fresh corn tortilla, squeeze half a lime and pour on a liberal amount of habanero salsa to create the perfect goat taco.
To cap things off during Sunday Cena, I enjoyed a Mexican twist on the all-American blondie dessert, a cajeta blondie made with chevre ice cream. Continuing the theme, the cajeta and ice cream are made from goat’s milk. The sweet, blonde brownie was balanced with the light ice cream and caramel-like cajeta. It tasted incredible. If this isn’t a regular dessert item, it should be.
It’s good to see a well-established local favorite like La Condesa branch out to try something new. With family or friends, their Sunday Cena is a new take on an old and beloved tradition.
400 W 2nd St – Sunday Cena for 4 reservations ($80)
@Crafty_Ed wants to know:
What is your favorite “Sunday Supper” tradition in Austin?
Photos courtesy of Jody Horton and La Condesa
Disclosure: I experienced La Condesa’s Sunday Cena summer menu during a media tasting. All opinions are my own.