Friday, May 21, 2010

Foreign & Domestic

Please allow me to interrupt my regularly-scheduled vacation blather with a post about an exciting new Austin restaurant: Foreign & Domestic.

The pre-opening buzz for this new venture by Ned and Jodi Elliott did as good a job as any I've seen at building anticipation. Between their menu-tease tweets, their Facebook page, and the highly-intriguing menu posted on their website (which has already changed slightly and is supposed to change weekly according to this Austinist article), well, it was nothing short of foreplay.

Needless to say, I was chafing at the bit for their official opening; so much so that I hurried over on opening night for a reconnaissance mission.


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Exterior - built in an old skate shop.

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Interior, stage right - didn't realize this at the time, but I'm pretty sure that's superstar Jodi Bart and her guy Adam Holzband over in the bottom right corner!

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Interior, stage left.

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Outdoor seating area. Dog-friendly, but having your dog might be a bit of a hassle given the community seating arrangement unless you are able to snag the end of a table.

After agonizing at length over the menu and wishing desperately that I had some human compatriots with me so I could steal bites off their plates (my dog was with me, but she failed to order anything), I decided to try a couple of items in the middle "Chomps" section (larger than the "Snacks"; smaller than the "Plates"). I ordered a Summer Salad, the description of which I won't be able to do justice, as I foolishly relied on being able to get it from the online menu, and it's not there. What I do know (or, at least, think I know - this place has a way of reinventing ingredients so as to trick the mind): there was a generous pile of mixed greens, pickled onions, what I believe were zucchini shavings, grilled peaches, corn, artichokes, and a champagne vinaigrette. Oh, and it looked like this:

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Summer Salad ($6)

I liked this salad fine, but thought that it was a bit on the sour side. I think this may have come from the pickled onions, although it felt more pervasive than that. The champagne vinaigrette and grilled peaches alleviated this some, but both were laid on the bottom of the bowl and there was very little of the latter, so it took some doing to incorporate them into every bite. I will say that it was a pretty generous portion for the price, and a very light eater could probably make a meal out of this (no protein, though).

I had also ordered the Grilled Octopus. The octopus and the salad came out together, which wasn't a huge deal, but I would have preferred to have the salad served first so I could properly focus on it without worrying about my octopus sitting on the table, getting cold.

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Grilled Octopus ($8) - served with refried chickpeas, dried olives, shattered garlic, and almond milk foam.

I really enjoyed this dish and would definitely order it again. The octopus was wonderfully tender, which can be tricky with octopus, and paired nicely with the chickpeas, a combination I hadn't visited previously. I loved the fact that they were taking some risks with the shattered garlic (those things that look like shavings on top) and the almond milk foam, but I thought the foam got completely lost in the other flavors, and the texture of the shattered garlic seemed weirdly paste-like to me. Of course, this may be my fault for picking most of the garlic bits off the top and eating them separately rather than eating them together with the rest of the dish (hey, I was curious!).

I couldn't resist trying dessert. Unfortunately/fortunately, they were out of the Pig Licker (chocolate dipped praline bacon served with bacon root beer [bacon root beer!] and pork rind churros). So I opted for the Eat a Peach (peach tarte tartin with sweet cream and basil snow cone). Yes. Basil snow cone.

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Eat a Peach ($6)

I mean, YES! Basil snow cone! Wow, was this ever good. The ice was very light and fluffy and was infused with just the right delightful whisper of basil herbaliciousness. It was downright ethereal, and worked well with the fresh Hill Country peachiness of the tarte tartin. This dessert was innovation done really, really well. So well that I actually made Allen and Stephanie of Austinist fame, whom I'd been lucky enough to meet just that evening (hooray for community tables and friendly Austinites!), try a bite.

While my experience here wasn't without a few minor issues, I was very impressed considering the restaurant had been open just a few hours by the time I arrived. It is clear that there is a great deal of passion and innovation in the kitchen here - Ned and Jodi both attended the Culinary Institute of America in New York and their combined resumé includes the likes of Thomas Keller's Per Se, Alain Ducasse's Essex House (now closed), and Gramercy Tavern, among others. And they bring to the table something that Austin has heretofore lacked - an inventive and risk-taking menu with extremely affordable pricing in an atmosphere so relaxed that I felt comfortable here in my exercise clothes with my dog in tow. Now that's a Foreign & Domestic policy I can get behind.

Foreign & Domestic
306 E 53rd St
Austin, TX 78751
(512) 560-7628

13 comments:

  1. Great post! I can't wait to try this place, soon. Basil snow cone sounds fab.

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  2. Friends of mine went there Tuesday night and were very impressed. I looked at their menu online and was very intrigued. Any place that serves bone marrow deserves a visit, I think. :)

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  3. I can't wait to try it! We thought about going last night and instead felt lazy and opted for Whataburger. We're nothin' if not klassy up in here.

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  4. Jaye, ain't nothin' wrong with a good Whataburger every now and then! I've been known to take a meal there, myself.

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  5. dearest optimista,
    thank you for always adding to my 'places to eat' mental list.
    and keeping me in the now.
    i vant the basil snowcone!

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  6. Aww, Linda, you are the sweetest! Thanks for reading!! Blog readers make me happy. <3

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  7. Nice post! We've been scoping this place out for a few weeks now, ever since the signage started going up and the renovation work inside veered ever classier (before it was a skate shop it was Austin Modern resale, so this building's definitely taken some interesting turns lately). The desserts and cocktails were excellent. I don't know that I'd order the Pig Licker again (pork root beer wasn't quite my thing), but the coconut sundae and basil sno cone were amazing.

    And yep, that's Jodi Bart and Adam Holzband in the photo -- I should know, because that's me and my gal Marsha sitting next to them :)

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  8. Can't wait to check it out. I had every intention of going this weekend but may have to wait until next week. Looks great!

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  9. It will be interesting to see how they change the menu each week. It definitely feels like there is some risk taking going on in the kitchen and that is awesome. We tried four desserts and two of the cocktails (made with champagne and wine - no liquor license here). They were interesting but a bit adventurous for my hum drum dessert tastes. I agree that the coconut sundae and the basil sno cone on the side of the peach dessert was lovely. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and next time would sit at the "big boy bar" so we can watch the chefs in action. That's the kitchen -- right there.

    Michelle -- I'm so sad that we missed you and it would have been nice to see Allen also. Austin is SUCH a small world. Adam posted on the Austinist post about F&B :-)

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  10. My policy re: new restaurants has become "hmmm...what did Michelle think of it."

    The refried chickpeas sound like a yummy idea. But, have to say I'm very over the bacon-crazy of the last few years. I had a thyme sorbet with blackberries at Uchi recently that blew me away. I think the herb sorbet + seasonal fruit is a very compelling combination for those of us who prefer lighter and non-chocolate desserts.

    Sounds like sitting at the bar watching the chefs would be super fun.

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  11. Wow - that grilled octopus dish looks delightful. And I'd definitely be interested in sitting at the "big boy" bar, watching people cook. If they're taking adventures, I wanna see.

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  12. Yowza, this looks like a winner. Great article, Michelle!

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  13. Yummm...grilled octopus. Next time you're served the salad with the main, I'd suggest eating as they do in europe and having the salad after the main!

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