Sunday, August 9, 2009

East Side Show Room

Cross-posted to Yelp...'cause that's the way I roll.

Based on sheer atmospheric delight alone, East Side Show Room could easily engender a five-star rating. The space channels vintage Paris bistro with a smoldering of sexy steampunk that develops into a slow burn as the shadows lengthen.

I found myself here last night unexpectedly, after a failed attempt at the Buenos Aires Cafe down the street (two hour wait...I did not know that even existed in Austin). Thankfully, the wait at East Side Show Room was much less onerous - about 15-20 minutes - although the host told us later that this was one of the slower Saturday nights they've experienced since they opened three weeks ago.

This easy-to-miss storefront belies a much more provocative interior.

Main dining area. Over to the right, there's a small screen onto which old silent movies are projected.

Back patio.

As far as edibles and drinkables go, the folks at East Side Show Room have created a menu that is just as interesting as their space. There is a focus on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and they are assembled innovatively and with great care. I tried a couple of the cocktails - a Zanahorita (respasado, carrot, cilantro agave, and gorgeous black Turkish salt) and a Framboise Flip (bourbon, framboise, farm egg, and peach bitters - like a fresh, summery version of egg nog). Both were utterly intriguing while still being imminently delicious - a combination that I've found can be difficult to achieve.

The Zanahorita, looking all sexy with its ring of black Turkish salt.
The respasado inside it will make you feel sexy, too.

The food menu is similarly unique, although very limited; there were only five entreé choices the evening I was there. If you're going with a picky eater, I'd suggest you preview the menu beforehand. As the menu explains, their offerings "ebb and flow with seasonal availability, whim of the chef, barkeep, and our guests' palates."

I (along with all but one other person at the table) selected East Side Show Room's version of shrimp and grits ($14). Four large Gulf shrimp were served atop curried grits made with coconut milk, lime, and mushroom, along with a side of shaved fennel. It was well-prepared and absolutely delicious; my only regret was that there was not more of it, as I found myself hungry again not long afterwards. I think the portion sizes are the only thing I might change about East Side Show Room; both the cocktails and the entrées seem a bit on the small side considering the price (perhaps this is the embodiment of Mireille Guiliano's French Women Don't Get Fat?).

Shrimp & grits, East Side Show Room style.

The table outlier ordered the special of the day, a grass-fed New York strip ($26) served with frites and a little side of fresh-tasting greens which I couldn't place but which were replete with chopped parsley. The beef had a wonderful flavor, but it wasn't quite as well-executed as the shrimp and grits; the meat was a little on the dry side, and I would have served the frites on the side, as the meat drippings rendered some of the frites a little soggy.

Shooting food in low light is the bane of my existence.

Some of the other menu items I need to try on a future outing: the lamb & goat burger (yummmm...) and the charcuterie (pork fillette, bourbon liver mousse with candy bacon, meat of the moment, pickle and house mustard). "Meat of the moment"...I love that.

This bar could have been cast in The City of Lost Children.


As much a visual feast as a literal one, East Side Show Room gracefully marries sustainability, creativity, service, and atmosphere into a unique and cohesive whole. Austin is blessed with a restaurant scene that is, in most respects, exceptional considering the size of our population. Yet even in this well-vetted landscape, East Side Show Room manages to bring something new - and undeniably compelling - to the table.

East Side Show Room
1100 East 6th Street
Austin, TX 78702
(512) 467-4380
(5/5 stars)

1 comment:

  1. An important point (to me at least) - the steak was grass-fed beef from a Texas ranch. I could've eaten 3 of those shrimp and grits plates, but maybe my body is better off for not having done so :-)


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