The phrase “something rich and strange” comes to mind when you step from the sidewalks of a giant north-side shopping center into this sleek restaurant with textured gold and bronze walls. Those who choose combo plates or maki will get a great bargain. Pickier, more-tradition-minded diners will find ultra-fresh selections such as sea bream sashimi, scattered with itty-bitty chive slices, and white salmon sushi riding atop loosely textured rice accented with white truffle.
There aren’t many places near campus for a relaxed dinner with wine served in proper stemware. This breezy spot in the newly renovated Hotel Ella ups the quota by a solid one. Named for Goodall Wooten (who erected the first building on the property, in 1900), the restaurant, under chef Scott Mechura, is sophisticated but not froufrou. Seared black drum, a touch chewy, served as a nice starter.
Though we may be fatigued by the whole “farm to table” conceit, rarely is it more applicable than at Sonya Coté’s outdoor restaurant at Springdale Farm. The prix-fixe menu changes weekly, and some courses are better than others; a dense, cool hunk of seared tuna was seriously outshone by a salad of red and green mizuna accented with roasted pumpkin, ginger, and pomegranate seeds. But the setting, at the literal edge of the farm, under towering trees strung with lights, is rather enchanting, and unlike any in town.
The former Marquee Grill has a clean new look and a refreshingly accessible American menu where shrimp corn dogs and a salad of smoked beets and crispy kale happily coexist. Rarely can we resist steak frites; the slightly chewy flatiron, with a huge bonfire-like stack of garlic-Parmesan fries, would satisfy even the most ravenous. Don’t pass up the Buttered Popcorn Crème Brûlée, which tastes exactly as advertised. (12/13)
Y tú, Mexican Coke?
Austin's Fun Fun Fun Fest kicks off today with headliners Snoop Dogg, FLAG and Bill Callahan. But last year's non-musical star is also back, appearing twice a day on all three outdoor stages: The Taco Cannon.
With each piece hand-made, sushi can take a while, but the wait is worth it here. Those pressed for time can opt for a bento box or one of the noodle dishes; we like the beef yakisoba—thin egg noodles tossed with crisp veggies and chunks of steak. At dinner loyal locals eagerly press around the teppanyaki grills. (11/13)
Skillful though the kitchen is with such standards as sizzling tandoori chicken and fragrant lamb biryani, what lures us back again and again are the exotic, harder-to-find dishes, like rich murgh korma (chicken in a satiny yogurt, almond, and cashew sauce) and mughlai keema baingan (eggplant and lamb with cashews). (11/13)
Celebrating thirty years in a city populated with older smokehouses, this joint boasts a diverse patronage and a lengthy menu. Best among the hickory-infused goods are the brisket and smallish pork ribs, both of which offer better moisture earlier in the day (requesting a little fat on the beef helps). High marks go to the hefty pulled pork; order it with the thinnish sauce (itself a work of layered spice and tartness) on the side.
No need to worry about valet parking or getting the best table here. Simply walk up to the window and place your order. The delectable tacos come double-layered in your choice of corn or flour tortillas; we drool at the thought of the fajita, al pastor, and barbacoa ones, all sprinkled with cilantro and chopped onions. While you wait, turn the corner and watch the preparation of the elotes, that wonderful concoction of grilled corn cut from the cob and then layered with all sorts of good stuff, like cotija cheese and sour cream.