Two words: Osso Buco.
OK, not real osso buco; Braise's version is made with Niman Ranch beef rather than the traditional veal, but the fact remains that Braise's osso buco is one of the best pieces of meat I've had in my mouth in recent memory.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Located in a rather unlikely building in a rather unlikely spot on East Sixth Street, Braise is the middle child in the Parind Vora trilogy. Simplicity Wine Bar occupies the lower tier, and Restaurant Jezebel, which was recently destroyed in a fire and whose fate is - at least to me - unknown, occupies the upper end. For this Goldilocks (or would that be Ebonylocks?), Braise was the porridge that was juuuust right. Comfortable, casual, and reasonably priced, but the food is high quality, interesting, and unapologetically holds its own on the deliciousness scale.
I convened here recently with a couple of girlfriends for a long overdue catching up. We started with an appetizer of chopped sea bass tartare, which was served over garlic croutons and accompanied by a beautifully-dressed mixed green salad that was tossed with slivers of purple onion and some kind of heavier mushroom - creminis, maybe? This was absolutely divine; I gobbled up my portion and kept nonchalantly checking the plate, hoping that more would magically appear there. Sadly, none did.
All was not lost, though. For my entrée, I ordered a half portion of Braise's version of osso buco ($12.95; or $17.95 for a full portion) which, as mentioned previously, is made with beef and served over a bed of garlic mashed potatoes. The combination might sound a bit pedestrian, but the execution was anything but; the meat was so tender as to practically dissolve at the slightest touch of the teeth, and the garlic mashers made for a comforting accompaniment. I was so entranced by its fabulousness that I barely even heard my own repeated sighs of pleasure.
For dessert, the three of us split an order of Braise's chocolate chip bread pudding a la mode. I found this to be a touch on the dense side, but it was certainly not objectionable, and despite its substantial size, we handily polished it off.
Braise's website bills its menu as "food for the soul as well as the belly." I think this tagline suits Braise just fine. Every component of my evening came together just perfectly - relaxed surroundings; wonderful food; excellent company. Having the option of ordering a half portion meant that I was pleasantly sated without being uncomfortable (despite having shared an appetizer and a dessert in addition to my entrée), and the fact that Braise doesn't yet have its liquor license meant that the bill verged on being ridiculously cheap - our total averaged $20 per person before gratuity, and that included the free glasses of wine that each of us received with our meals.
I have a feeling that I'll be smiling over a plate of osso buco at Braise on a regular basis.
2121 East Sixth Street
Austin, Texas 78702