ARW Day 1: Braise

17 Oct

Editor’s Note: Another Austin Restaurant Week in the books and Two Chicks is properly stuffed. This time around, we let our bank accounts do the choosing, so we opted for just two restaurants, Braise and Foreign & Domestic.

A had been eyeing Braise since ARW 2010, hoping that they would again participate; and wouldn’t you know it, the foodie gods answered her prayers!  The restaurant is housed in a multi-use development in the new and improved East 6th Street area.  While the mixed -use development is the hip thing around town, both of us were irked at the rather plain-looking building. The restaurant anchors the corner of an apartment complex, but its sign blended a bit too much into the neutral toned brick, causing A to pass up the place three times before finally spotting it. Still the neighborhood was peaceful and parking was easy; as B waited at the front door, A left her irritation at the door as we entered the cozy, dimly lit restaurant.

We immediately delved into the menu and fell prey to the wine pairing option for an additional $20.  In hindsight, A could have done without the wine pairing but it was nice of them to have it as an option.  She just doesn’t down her booze as quickly as others (*ahem* B) so she was extremely behind each time they brought her a new glass.  She resembled that kid who holds up the entire class being dismissed for recess because she’s the last one to turn in the pop quiz.

What we ate:

Forget what you've been told; oil and vinegar *do* mix.

A Side:
I started the meal with crab cakes.  The plate came out artfully decorated with two crab ovals, not really the look of the usual flat patties.  They still tasted pretty good – chock full of crab meat and flavor.  The crab meat wasn’t the lump crab meat that I love for its sweetness, but it was an acceptable version that I enjoyed.  The dish came with an extra bang of heat from a sriracha aioli – you know, that Asian condiment sometimes known as rooster sauce?  While tasty, I did think the heat was just a smidge too much. After my first bite, I felt the aioli was on the verge of taking over all of the other flavors of the dish.

Crab + beef + mash = yes, please!

Next up was the Braise version of osso bucco, the osso bucco Oscar – beef instead of veal, minus the bone.  The meat was super tender and well-seasoned, topped with a helping of crab meat (I imagine the same type as what was used in the cakes) and accompanied by mashed potatoes, greens and a chipotle hollandaise.  I did find myself missing the bone for its rich, delicious marrow, but the flavorful meat eventually made me forget how much I wanted one. The hollandaise, meanwhile, was okay but once again the heat jumped up and bit me a little roughly. It was a blanket when all I needed was a light cotton sheet.

Rounding out the meal was the chocolate chip bread pudding, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It wasn’t too sweet, but wonderfully eggy and moist with bits of chocolate here and there to keep you interested; serving it a la mode was a great move, too.  The cold ice cream melting into the warm pudding created layers upon layers of flavor.

Come to the Isle of Chocolate, where pleasures await you.

B Side:
My appetizer choice was no secret to anyone who knows me; if pork belly is on the menu, then I am damned sure going to order it, and Braise was no different. The belly has a beautiful charred outside that gave way to a soft, fatty inside, just as I’d hoped. It was served atop a bed of wilted collard greens, which is a new twist that I really loved. It felt very upscale southern, and played the part well. I wasn’t as big a fan of the djion mustard dipping sauce, though — it seemed extraneous and a bit too sharp for the meat. When all three components were eaten together, the mustard was tamed somewhat, but overall, I tried to dab lightly.

Come to me, piggy. Come to me.

My entree was a caramelized roulade of chicken, stuffed with mushrooms and bleu cheese with rosemary maitre ‘d butter. At first glance, the meal was beautiful, if a bit sparse. I was greeted with five small rounds of stuffed chicken, no larger than a silver dollar, arranged around a small mound of mashed potato. Portion size aside, the flavors were straightforward and – again – rich. The bleu cheese added a nice counterpoint to the rosemary butter, and the chicken was wonderfully moist and cooked perfectly (which isn’t always the case with a roulade).

I finished off my meal with a pineapple upside down cake, topped with a Chantilly cream; an unusual entry on a dessert menu, but one I appreciated since – say it with me, now – I DON’T EAT CHOCOLATE. While A and I had a measure of meal envy during the appetizer and entree courses, we each agreed that we preferred our own dessert. The cake was served warm but wasn’t too sweet. That worked out well, since pineapple tends to pucker the lips. While it was good I couldn’t help but thinking it was a little… plain. It felt like a recipe my mom might have found in one of her Southern Living magazines.


We both agreed one of the best things about our Braise experience was the chef, who made a point to be out in the dining room nearly as much as he was behind the scenes. He walked out with every course, checking on us to ensure we were happy. When he saw us taking photos, we told him of our blogging endeavors and he freely discussed his roots in the kitchen. As he reminisced about his mother – and talked of retaining the lessons she’d taught him – he was comfortable and relaxed, which matched the mood of Braise perfectly.

Final Grade:

A: I enjoyed Braise overall, though I’m not sure I would make a special trip back sans restaurant week.  One of the nicer things about the restaurant that did set itself apart in my eyes was the chef.  Not only did he mingle with patrons, but I even spotted him helping his staff bring orders out to the tables – I have a lot of respect for a chef who can hang in the trenches. Braise gets somewhere between a fork up and a fork to the side from me.  Hmm, fork at 2 o’clock perhaps?

B: I liked it quite a bit, though it wasn’t orgasmic. The portions were a bit on the small side in my opinion, but the space was quaint and the staff was excellent. They were attentive, but not obtrusive, and I could tell a lot of love went into the food. I also thoroughly enjoyed the wine pairings. Fork up.


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