Kushi Yama


For Amarillo, Kushi Yama is pretty darn sleek and sophisticated. Executive chef Richard Chen, of Las Vegas’s Michelin-starred Wing Lei, and local restaurateur Tadamichi Tayama have come up with an Asian fusion menu designed for sharing. We began with seafood ceviche in a delicate yuzu vinaigrette. Next, we sampled the decadent smoked pork belly from the yakitori menu and a maki roll featuring spicy tuna. To top it all off, we shared the divine braised short ribs atop creamy beef cheek risotto in a star anise reduction. The wine selection is excellent, and the service is attentive and professional. Bar. 3319 I-40W (806-358-2900). Open Mon–Fri 11–2 & 5–10, Sat & Sun 11–10. $$ +

El Alma


In news from cursed dining locales (CNNMoney.com called 1025 Barton Springs a “deadly spot”), the El Chile team has transformed a former EC outpost into a showcase for Mexico City–born chef Alma Alcocer-Thomas. The building retains its clean white walls and quirky stone staircase leading to a rooftop deck, where you can imbibe alfresco while gazing (over the 1st Stop Food Store) at the lights of downtown. Chef Alcocer-Thomas, whose Cordon Bleu training has served her well at a number of places (like Jeffrey’s), cooks up food that’s both earthy and light, everyday and elevated. The menu leans more Mex than Tex—duck enmoladas, quail with mole—and lively flavors and complex sauces dominate. Try the chuleta de puerco: a Mexican Coke–marinated pork chop served with a relleno stuffed with rice and melted cheese. Bar. 1025 Barton Springs Rd (512-609-8923). Open Sun & Mon 11–9, Tue–Sat 11–10. $–$$ +