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.
Exterior - built in an old skate shop.
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!
Interior, stage left.
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:
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.
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.
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