Audio: Talking Charm Korean BBQ restaurant review with KUT

Ah, the joys of grilling your own meat at your table and the exploration of the depths of kimchi. I popped into KUT this week to discuss my recent review of Charm Korean BBQ (which I gave 8.5/10). You can listen to that conversation here and check out the full review at MyStatesman.com.

The uncooked meat at Charm Korean BBQ is delivered to the table with an array of side dishes called banchan. Matthew Odam/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Restaurant review: Bonhomie

My fiancee stole a cursory glance at the Bonhomie menu and then surveyed the minimalist space from our seats at the end of the open kitchen.

“What exactly is the concept again?” she asked.

I’d tossed her a few adjectives to describe the restaurant earlier in the week, but if you live with me, I probably start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher after a while. And she certainly doesn’t read every single word I write about the constant wave of Austin restaurant openings. It’s one of the many things I love about her.

The cheeseburger at Bonhomie.(Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Then I said, “The chef described it as Waffle House meets French bistro.”

She looked around again and noted the booths and their splashes of red, the tall stacks of white plates near the line, the globe light fixtures hanging from the ceiling and the food-warming bulbs that extend on springy coils. She spotted the selection of pommes rosti in the middle of the menu. It all clicked.

“Of course,” she said. “That’s brilliant.”

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE READING the complete Bonhomie review on MyStatesman.com.

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Restaurant review: Boiler Nine Bar + Grill

Boiler Nine Bar + Grill restaurant recently opened in the Seaholm Power Plant location on Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin.  RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Boiler Nine Bar + Grill restaurant recently opened in the Seaholm Power Plant location on Cesar Chavez in downtown Austin.
RALPH BARRERA/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Check out this video preview of the new Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, and then get a taste of the review by reading the first few grafs below. For the complete review, head to MyStatesman.com.

“This doesn’t look like Austin.”

“This doesn’t feel like Austin.”

Or, worse: “This looks like Dallas.”

You’ll hear some variation of that lament as you traverse parts of recently sprouted or newly polished Austin.

It’s too sparkling. It’s too slick. It’s too … new.

We like things a little more lived-in around here. Places with character. It doesn’t have to be old, but it helps if it can pass for having been around since before the 21st century. Sometimes just a reincarnation of an old spirit in a new body will do.

At least, that’s how a certain strain of Austinites feel. Many recent transplants, younger consumers and trend-chasers are drawn to the glossy, antiseptic familiarity of mixed-use developments found in every major city in America today. Servicing such disparate masters can be a real challenge.

Welcome to the world of being a restaurant operator today in Austin. The problem is highlighted by the wealth of first-generation restaurant spaces in town. How can you make a new space feel like it has earned history? And how can someone who’s been around awhile avoid the label of newcomer?

The sleek, industrial Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, named after its location in the former Seaholm Power Plant’s ninth boiler room, sits at the crux of Austin’s old-new conundrum. One of Austin’s newest restaurants (it opened this summer), it is located in one of the older buildings in Austin to house a restaurant. The restaurant is centered on the warming cuisine fueled by live-fire cooking, though the space looks like it just got removed from its plastic wrapping. And the team behind it isn’t new, but their context has changed.

Read the full review on MyStatesman.com.

Video: Review of Kyoten Sushiko

Austin’s hottest new sushi restaurant is Kyoten Sushiko and it has everything: a quirky, obsessive chef; exceptional food; a server who does his dry cleaning in a bathtub; and all of the charm of an unfurnished model apartment.

Apologies to Bill Hader’s Stefon character from “Saturday Night Live,” but I kept slipping back into that absurd and lovable character’s voice when trying to explain the surreal experience of dining at chef Otto Phan’s omakase-style sushi restaurant.

The slight chef with a shaved head opened his tiny restaurant at the Mueller development at the end of June. Calling it a restaurant almost feels like a stretch. Situated on the ground floor of one of Mueller’s new mixed-use buildings, Kyoten more closely resembles a one-bedroom apartment that someone decided to turn into a restaurant at the last second.

What would be the living area serves as lunch seating (see inset box for details), the kitchen is, well, the kitchen, and the should-be bedroom acts as the dining room for a 20-course omakase-style (chef’s choice) dinner service that takes place two times a night, five nights a week.

With the exception of a small picture of Phan’s original East Sixth Street sushi trailer that served as his launchpad, the white walls are bare. Silence smothers the musicless room. The only architectural detail: a gorgeous, eight-seat ash wood counter designed by Wimberley artist Michael Wilson. I snuck a glance at the floor to see if there was still a drop-cloth to indicate the space was not finished, or some plastic lining that might alert us that we had wandered into a scene from “Dexter.”

Continue reading my review at MyStatesman.com.

Watch: Restaurant review of Chicon in East Austin

Ben Edgerton and chef Andrew Wiseheart closed their fine dining, veggie-centric Gardner earlier this year. But they didn’t walk away from the restaurant. They revamped the menu and design to create the more casual Chicon, a refined take on comfort food that feels akin to their original restaurant, Contigo. Chicon is located at 1914 E. Sixth St.

Striped bass at Chicon. (Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Striped bass at Chicon. (Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Restaurant review: Counter 357

A dish of smoked and seared duck exhibits the artful plating at Counter 357.  (Laura Skelding/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
A dish of smoked and seared duck exhibits the artful plating at Counter 357. (Laura Skelding/AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

The sunglow yellow cucumber flower that brightened a plate of sumptuous country pâté came from chef Lawrence Kocurek’s garden. The pickled and sliced quail eggs, magenta on the outside with jonquil yellow yolks, paid homage to his grandparents.

We didn’t learn this information from the menu or a news release. Kocurek told us from his position across the counter as he served the second of seven courses during a wine-paired meal at Counter 357.

Kocurek is the executive chef at the Congress Avenue restaurant he and owner Eric Earthman opened in March. Counter 357, located in the former Dress Shop below Swift’s Attic, deviates from traditional expectations by serving a trio of fixed-menu offerings (three, five and seven courses). The restaurant actually spells its name Counter 3. Five. VII., a misguided decision (for reasons of marketing, aesthetics and common sense) that I won’t attempt to unravel here.

Other restaurants across the country (Orsa & Winston in Los Angeles and Almanac in New York City) play with numerous multi-course fixed menu options, but Counter 357’s approach is unique in Austin. Congress, a block away, ended their adherence to two fixed-course options last year, and Qui and Barley Swine present guests with a single fixed menu. That leaves Counter 357 to operate in a singular space.

To continue reading the full review, head to MyStatesman.com.

Multimedia restaurant review: Gardner

Brussels sprouts in almond miso at Gardner. (Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Brussels sprouts in almond miso at Gardner. (Credit: Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

This week I reviewed Gardner, the new veggie-centric restaurant from the owners of ranch-inspired Contigo. Gardner rides a surging movement of restaurants focused on showcasing vegetables. Chefs across the country — from Oxheart in Houston to Blue Hill in New York City — and around the world, at places like Noma in Copenhagen, have drawn raves for their imaginative and transfixing interpretations of a food group some have long considered in direct opposition to pleasure. You can read my full review here.

You can also experience the restaurant through various multimedia options …

There’s a photo gallery here.

An audio slideshow below …

And what follows is my conversation about Gardner with Nathan Bernier from KUT …