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Aba

4.7 121 votes

1011 S Congress Avenue

(737) 273-0199

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Aba # 16 Austin Restaurant
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Wesley Griffin Last updated on Dec 18, 2023 by

Aba Location and Ambiance
If you’re not careful, you may walk right by Aba without noticing it. The restaurant is nestled in a walkway in the Music Lane shopping district on South Congress that sits slightly off the main entrance of the shopping area with only a small sign hanging on the street side inviting guests into the courtyard. Once you enter, you are transported to an incredible dining ambiance that is one of the best Austin offers. Aba started in Chicago in 2018 by famed restaurant group Lettuce Entertain You with the Austin location opening in 2020 and another in Miami last year. In Austin, it immediately became a go-to staple for the culinary scene that has exploded in the SoCo Shopping district. 

The space itself provides the backdrop for a European coastal escape and is divided between a front patio in the walkway where you can sip cocktails and have apps while you wait, and the main dining area that includes an indoor dining room and an open-air courtyard. Our favorite aspect of the space is the incorporation of green space throughout:  in the main room green plants and ivy dangle from the ceiling and the outdoor courtyard is centered around a beautiful rolling oak tree. This play on the indoor/outdoor space coupled with the greenery and the dim lighting provide a tranquil and serene backdrop. It feels like you’re sitting in a small Mediterranean sea-side town and makes it easy to forget you’re in Austin entirely. On our recent visit, we were seated in the main dining room, which had the perfect balance of light and a not-too-loud hum of a full and bustling dinner crowd.  
 
Outdoor Dining Area + Main Dining Room


The menu at Aba, crafted by Chef CJ Jacobson and Marc Jacobs combines the influence of Israeli, Turkish, Lebanese, and Greek traditional dishes while adjusting playful details throughout to keep the experience fresh and rewarding. To begin our journey we decided to stick to more traditional offerings and ordered the Crispy Short Rib Hummus, a serving of Marinated Olives and Feta as well as freshly baked pita bread.  The short rib hummus is an absolute stunner here, served as a traditional homemade hummus with a marinated and then pan fried dollop of short rib and lightly grilled onions literally melting away in its own beef au jus and carefully topped with cilantro. The marinated olives and feta were served as described, with the star of the plate being the richly flavored feta. The pita bread was hot and fluffy with a crispy texture that held its own even in the meat-heavy hummus.  Together they were a perfect pairing.

From the raw offerings we tried the Yellowtail which was served in a shallow bowl of citrus juice and topped with jalapeno and crispy rice.  While that specific combination has become quite popular among sushi restaurants, it did not feel out of place on this menu and made for a nice balance when offered alongside the short rib hummus.
 
Hummus, Yellowtail, Olives, and Bread

We also ordered two mocktails, the Faux-Loma, a play on a traditional paloma but all Mediterranean with house-made pineapple fresno cordial, lime, and a greek grapefruit soda and the Unplugged which is sips almost like an refreshing juice cleanse with house-made green juice, ginger, lime, and pineapple juice.

For our main courses we decided to continue with a surf-and-turf theme ordering the Shawarma Skirt Steak Frites and the Grilled Diver Scallops. The steak is spiced in a traditional Israeli shawarma blend and we could taste all the notes of cinnamon, clove and nutmeg with strong black and pink peppercorns. The steak was masterfully prepared with a crust seasoned by the Shawarma spices and perfectly medium-rare inside. The juice from the steak was soaked up by the french fries which are adorned with za'atar and more of the irresistible feta. The diver scallops did not disappoint and there was a beautiful dance of flavors between the green muhammara, sumac molasses, pistachio, pomegranate, and dill. While it reads as ingredient-heavy, they all play well together and compliment the seared scallops very well.

Skirt Steak and Diver Scallops


When you dine at Aba you absolutely must save room for dessert and I would suggest saving room for a few. We ordered the Honey Pie which is served with frozen grapes, whipped cream, and toasted sesame seeds and the Lemon Meringue Frozen Greek Yogurt. The pie was thick and rich but the accompanying frozen grapes and cream truly stand out in the dish to bring it all together. The lemon meringue froyo was so delicious we couldn’t stop ourselves from finishing the entire tower or goodness.

Greek Yogurt and Honey Pie Desserts

Just when we were completely full and bursting at the seams, Alex, the gracious manager, brought out something that we “had to try.”  He described it as a palette cleanser but I have to say in all of my adventures in eating I have never ever had something that truly fit the definition. The simple Frozen Greek Yogurt with Olive Oil and Sea Salt is served exactly as it sounds. There is little to no sugar in the froyo here and so immediately the palette is hit by the frozen cream and the salt and olive oil sort of dance together coating and then leaving behind no remnants of even our espresso. It was the perfect way to end the culinary expedition and thus our evening out at Aba.

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