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Odam Prefers South Congress Hotel's Cafe No Se to Central Standard

And Watson wants more France at L'Estelle House

Cafe No Se in the South Congress Hotel
Cafe No Se in the South Congress Hotel
Cafe No Se

The Statesman’s Matthew Odam catches up by filing a review of two restaurants at the South Congress Hotel: Cafe No Se and Central Standard. At Cafe No Se, Odam finds the design so very Los Angeles that it seems seems overly exaggerated, but finds very little fault indeed when it comes to the food, particularly at brunch and lunch.

Creamy avocado toast with soft-boiled eggs, bright greens and aleppo carrots ($13) served as a cool entry point to a brunch that included some of the best ricotta pancakes in town, the lithe banana-studded rounds embraced by the slow march of viscous maple syrup ($12). The hotcakes are further testament to the brilliance of executive pastry chef Amanda Rockman, who also delivers at brunch a crusty kouign amann ($4) that defies science: how can so much butter and sugar combine for a pastry this light?

Underscoring the sunny Californian vibe, Odam reckons Cafe No Se is more appropriate for daylight dining, while the more opulent East Coast vibe of Central Standard is a better fit for more formal affairs, even if the food is unconvincing:

Lobster billed as chilled would have been better referred to as cold, the stingy meat firm and tough ($24). An overcooked New York strip ($38) buried beneath meaty oyster mushrooms and thyme lacked a seasoned sear, and though an herb confetti brought life to skewered mahi mahi ($32), the fish was harder to get through than our comically long dinner. Even classics like a wedge salad ($11) and a deconstructed Caesar ($14) that needed more anchovy didn’t get me in a New York state of mind.

Ultimately, says Odam, the restaurants at South Congress Hotel are trying to speak to Austin’s social and culinary scenes while also appealing to wealthy out-of-towners, with mixed results.

The Chronicle’s Brandon Watson has a disjointed experience at L’Estelle House & the Drafting Room down on Rainey Street. While he finds the space elegant and homey, the menu doesn’t deliver on the promise of "French-inspired comfort food" to him:

I'll give the benefit of the doubt and say the Parisian burger ($13, not including the $3 added egg) was named after the elder Hilton sister, because there is really no trace of the City of Light. Why not throw out the food-service telera rolls and replace with a locally baked brioche? Or use a French cheese instead of queso, even something as trite as Brie? Piled high with arugula and fries, the burger was rich and punchy. It's the signature of the late-night menu, but every signature deserves some flourish.

Watson offers a few other suggestions, such as offering tartines and Nicoise to Frenchify things, as well as maintaining overall consistency, making particular note of the lack of sweets on the menu that particular visit despite evidence on social media to the contrary. Overall, he reckons that the restaurant "just needs to figure out what it wants to be when it grows up."

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South Congress Hotel

1603 South Congress Avenue, , TX 78704 (512) 920-6405 Visit Website

L'Estelle House

88 1/2 Rainey St, Austin, TX 78701 (512) 771-0746