A new 'micro' restaurant downtown will defy a number of dining conventions when it opens on March 4th. Counter 3.Five.VII will have no servers, no tables, and no tipping. The intimate 26-seat restaurant is composed of a single chef's counter, and the culinary team lead by Lawrence Kocurek interacts directly with guests.
Kocerek and his partner Eric Earthman designed the restaurant to capture what they loved about their industry, and discard what they didn't. Both are longtime veterans of what Earthman calls the "corporate restaurant world," and they seek to right the wrongs of larger operations which leave chefs underpaid and overworked. The chef's counter format removes the need for servers and other support staff which raises salaries for the kitchen. The restaurant will also abolish tipping: every check will have an 18% service charge.
The promise of a collaborative environment, higher salaries and limited hours has empowered Kocurek and Earthman to hire three talented chefs de cuisine from impressive fine dining backgrounds like Uchiko and Qui. Rounding out the team are a pastry chef, a sommelier, a sommelier's assistant, and a maitre'd, a remarkably small staff for a high-end restaurant in Austin. Earthman says the project is inspired by "micro" restaurants like Chef's Table at Brooklyn Fare in New York.
The three, five, and seven course tasting menu focuses on modern American cuisine which will change seasonally, though Kocurek says they're taking a "bestavore" rather than "locavore" approach to sourcing. The restaurant features its own in-house Urban Cultivator, a growing system that will provide greens and herbs. On the opening menu, a three course meal is $45, five courses $70, and seven courses are $90. Kocurek says the seven course menu will skew more adventurous, and all three will be broken up by amuse bouches and other small bites. Rare and "esoteric" wines will be available for pairings, selected by Level Three sommelier Jason Huerta.
The restaurant was designed by Jamie Chioco of Chioco Design, with the 26-seat counter taking center stage. Small details aid the restaurant's stripped-down service, like custom silverware holders that remove the need to provide new silverware when the next course is delivered. Sliding doors divide the restaurant from the large wine bar area, which will offer house-made charcuterie and cheese plates.
Counter 3.Five.VII is located at 315 Congress, tucked below Swift's Attic. Opening hours are Tuesday - Saturday from 4 p.m. - 11 p.m. for the wine bar, and 5 p.m. - 9 p.m. for the chef's counter. More information and reservations are available on their website.