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Péché Brings Absinthe to Austin

13 November 2008 1,489 views 10 Comments

pechelogosmallbPéché (pron. Pesh-ay) is a new bar/restaurant that opened about a month ago on 4th Street in the location that used to be Málaga. The last time I went to Málaga I vowed never to return due to the Cake Fiasco of ’08. I believe the restaurant still exists but in a new location. I hope to never set foot there.

Laura, Betsy and I visited Péché for the first time last night, after a happy hour hosted by the Austin chapter of the Anti-Defamation league. When Laura ordered the Bacon with pickled Quail Egg Martini, the irony was not lost on us.

lauramartiniPéché is famous for serving absinthe, a liquor that was banned in France and the United States from the early 20th Century until last year amid fears that it induced madness. Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, and Pablo Picasso all drank absinthe.

Absinthe is distilled from wormwood, and contains trace amounts of an oily compound called thujone, which is believed to possess mildly hallucinogenic qualities. Absinthe enthusiasts claim that the drink induces “clarity,” and rumors about its mind-altering effects have enhanced its scandalous reputation. In fact, Péché means sin.
betsymusselsLaura and Betsy love food and we shared mussels with absinthe tarragon broth and pommes frites; trio of sliders (beef and blue cheese with onion relish, crab salad open faced with tarragon aioli and pork confit with vinegar reduction and celery root slaw); and salmon with braised leeks with green beans (a daily special).
The fries were served in a cone with ketchup, garlic aioli and tarragon aioli (YUM) and helped cleanse our palate after a taste of the cringe-worthy bacon martini. Laura said “It’s ugly sexy, like Lyle Lovett.” The waitress overheard this while walking by and said “I love him.” fries_001I said I didn’t think it was fair that men can be described as “ugly sexy” but women never are. I was quickly corrected and told that both Uma Thurman and Patricia Arquette are ugly sexy. Can you think of anything else?
Péché is open from 4 p.m. – midnight Monday through Wednesday; 4 p.m. – 2 a.m. Thursday – Saturday; 5 p.m. – 2 a.m. Sunday. I believe they have a happy hour where sandwiches are only $5 but I can’t figure out when that is. On Sunday, you can enjoy absinthe for only $5. At $23/person with tip for each of us, Péché made us feel decadent at a modest price.
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  • Rachel

    whoa..what was the cake fiasco at Malaga?! I love that place. Please tell me I can still eat there without being poisoned or something…

  • Jodi

    While I can’t comment on their food safety practices, I can tell you that the cake fiasco was a customer service issue. I’d be happy to elaborate offline.

  • Brandon

    I think that Allison Janney is “ugly sexy.” Another sun-unveiling blog, Bart.

  • double tonic

    The bacon-and-pickled-quail-egg martini was definitely the Lyle Lovett of martinis. The concept was brilliant, even if the execution left a bad taste in our mouths.

    Though I wasn’t particularly impressed with the mussels, the broth itself was fantastic, as was everything else we sampled. I’m glad were were able to agree to order three dishes and try 1/3 of each. (Now we need to go back for the duck Betsy really wanted ;-)

    And maybe next time one of us will actually order absinthe …?

  • Marcos

    Cake Fiasco of ’08…. you need to elaborate online. A food blog where only good things are said is not as much fun. Let’s see the dark side of Jodi.

    I always thought Malaga was presumptuous and overpriced, and the food no better than average anyway.

  • Jodi

    Since my readers are clamoring for it, I will oblige. We bought a wonderful chocolate cake from the 1886 Cafe at the Driskill for Ilyse’s birthday. We brought the cake to Malaga where we planned much drinking and eating as part of the celebrations. There were about 10 of us and the place was not busy that night. They insisted on charging us a $10 cake “plating fee.” When asked why they did this they said they want to discourage diners from bringing in their own dessert because they have their own. I think this is ridiculous because people often have a favorite cake that they want to enjoy on their birthday and restaurants should understand that. For the record, I think corking fees are fine and make perfect sense.

  • Anna

    We’re going to try to go Friday. Can’t wait to try absinthe!

  • monica

    gina gershon is ugle sexy to me and i can’t wait to move to austin and enjoy this place. :D

  • Betsy

    Not only was the food fresh and tasty, but the restaurant had a great atmosphere – felt like a cool “big city” bistro but without the attitude or sticker shock. In fact, I’d be very surprised if they ever tried to enforce a plating fee (a la Jodi’s Cake Fiasco of ’08). The salmon daily special was excellent – a fresh beautiful filet of perfectly cooked fish paired with a creamy, buttery leek gratin.

    Re: ugly sexy women…Here’s one more that I just thought of: Juliette Lewis. Next time I visit Peche, I’ll try the absinthe, which may further distort my perception on what’s ugly vs sexy. Can’t wait!

  • Anonymous

    Jodi was the hero of the cake debacle – she really stood up to the man and told him what was what! Plus, she picked out the cake, which was amazing! Many thanks Jod.