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Aug 14, 2008 11:11 PM

Ground Breaking Chef in Austin Texas

What chef is boldly going where few other chefs care to in Austin?This chef could be cooking in any category you may dream of from Soul food to sushi.Who is your candidate?Who is your chef breaking new ground?

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  1. Well, if we're talking breaking new ground *in Austin*, I'm surprised nobody has piped up yet, since over the past couple of weeks I've had:

    A mind-expanding blowout 28-course kaiseki meal followed by a simple, cheap, down-home cooking Japanese meal in the sister restaurant that made me weep.

    The new Jewish soul food joint crankin' out delicious house-made fatty juicy pastrami & corned beef on freshly baked rye, matzoh ball soup, latkes, sable & sturgeon, knishes & kugelis that make your heart sing.

    The strip of island grub, with the roti cart spinnin' up buss up shuts, the Jamaican jerk chicken shack setting your hair on fire, the oxtail stews and escabeche, oh man.

    Then there's that noodle-house serving up fresh hand-pulled noodles bathing in dark, deep & delicious broths .....

    And I'm surprised nobody has mentioned that new Spanish place on Lamar that is preparing true-to-the-roots simply prepared Spanish grub, getting their hands on the freshest gambas and percebes and the like.

    And what about those new Portuguese bakeries that opened up in far north burbs ?

    And then I woke up and found myself at Polvos !!!!

    Aww shucks, I don't mean to rag on Austin, because I do eat very well here and enjoy many places, but I gotta say chef, I'm stumped at your question.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Nab

      waaaah.........i was so excited Nab...........till i got to the ending.........

      1. re: scoutaustin

        I was had with the "Jewish soul food"... such cruelty! Maybe someone in the industry could take a clue from Nab...

      2. re: Nab

        You GOT me....I'm so depressed now that I might just have to do some mail ordering....

        1. re: Nab

          Where are these Portuguese bakeries? Do they have Portuguese prices? A helpful Portuguese woman in Lisbon once responded after many "what's that?"s and pointed fingers, "Everything orange in Portugal is made of sugar and eggs."

          Also, what is the new Spanish place on Lamar and where is it?

          1. re: toripowell

            tori - Nab was teasing us - it was a good tease, because halfway through reading it, I was thinking "good, good - I need to get in the car right now!"

          2. re: Nab

            Nab, this post was brutal. Aargh.

            Given that scrumptious doesn't limit it to NEW chefs, only "ground breaking", I'd put Tyson Cole [first and foremost] and Parind Vora on the list w/o hesitation. They're both contemporary chefs breaking "new ground" often with their preparations, and not just for the sake of being modern: the results are usually delicious.

            I don't think Ray Tatum is radically "ground breaking", but I think he is probably as reliable as any fine dining chef in the Austin area, and many of his dishes have a contemporary feel.

            Lastly, given his many misadventures with homemade sauces, I think the Mad Maestro at El Meson (the stocky, dark-haired guy) *tries* to be ground-breaking. I think his traditional approaches are actually more successful then his experimentation, but I gotta give the guy a shout-out. Few joints as cheap as his place offer (sometimes) corn fungus on the menu in the first place, for example, or pipian mole, etc., etc. In fact, although his work isn't even slightly contemporary, it is simultaneously exciting, delicious, reliable, and hearty/comforting. Who else in town even does that? Maybe El Meson deserves top marks over all the rest in Austin.

            1. re: tom in austin

              I can agree with Tyson and Parind as among the most experimental. But even though I can get enticed by exotic dining I quickly boomerang back to the kitchens with the most reliable and expert execution: Trio, Driskill, Wink, Zoot, Aquarelle, Mirabelle, Jeffrey's, Fonda San Miguel, Eastside
              Café Josie, Vespaio, Hudsons... Interesting flavors are not sufficient for me if the proteins and vegetables are not optimally cooked - and that is actually an uncommon achievement.

              1. re: Paul Silver

                I think Tyson and Parind are legitimately awesome, not just experimenters. I massively prefer their talent to Zoot and Cafe Josie (on your list above), and at least marginally prefer them to the rest of the places you mention. Oh: my last several visits to Fonda have been disappointing -- maybe all the chow training I've been doing (i.e. getting fat eating tacos) has modified my expectations for this type of cuisine? Anyway, I'd rather have El Meson than Fonda at this point, unless I'm craving pure variety.

          3. Yeah, not a whole lot of "breaking new ground" going on in this place. There are some good things, and some real effort out there, but food just isn't a big thing around Austin-- which is a real bummer for those of us who do like things other than protein bars...

            1. I'll enter the hornet's nest and propose a place that I have been enjoying lately: Delicato Cafe and Creamery in Steiner Ranch. The owners are from Venezuela and have brought an international flavor to the previously dull SR dining scene. The cafe does a brisk business serving coffee and espresso drinks. I am no connoisseur of coffee, but I enjoy their shot pulling abilities occasionally and I think they do a very nice job. Additionally they serve homemade Gelato and Sorbetto - all natural and delicious. Generally about 10 -12 flavors every day. They are continuously expanding their lunch menu to include amny grilled sandwiches and cold sandwiches. Using very high quality meats and cheeses to create made-to-order lunches. Their bakery case changes every day with cookies, breads, pies and cakes as well as a custom cake business with quite innovative designs.

              Finally, their tapas menu is why I am writing about this place. Offering several international tapas dishes, each very well executed and the perfect size for accomanying a glass or two of their wines...Pan a la Catalana con Chorizo (bread with tomato pulp served with spanish chorizo), Eggplant Duet with italian caponata and Baba Ganoush is fantastic...Chorizo Lolipops (Chorizo with !caramel!)...the list goes on. They also serve Arepas (I was told these are the "hamburgers" of Venezuela and Colombia). with roasted pork, brisket, ham and cheese or Reina Pepiada (chicken salad w/avocado).

              They offer artisan pizza (I have not tried yet), paella, and cheese or chocolate fondue.

              The owners/chefs are there working hard night and day and turn out very high quality products...If you are in the area, I highly recommend Delicato.

              1. Thanks, Yall! Now I don't feel so bad about San Diego. At least you've got barbecue and decent enchiladas and Central Market, good music, and probably better fish tacos than we've got. . .