Austin Monthly’s Jolene Bouchon visited Otoko for the first critical review of the omakase Japanese restaurant. After a quick nip from next-door bar Watertrade, Bouchon embarked on a connected journey led by head chef Yoshi Okai. Every piece of the 22-course meal came together to "create a beautiful picture." Her top picks:
Good lord, the sawara! That bite of hichimi-dusted Spanish mackerel dressed with smoky bonito tosazu was among my favorite of the night, as was the silken and gloriously briny steamed goose-egg custard that comprised the mushimono course.
Bouchon also addressed Paul Qui’s involvement straight on. She deliberated whether she should review the restaurant after his assault charges and rehabilitation time in March, but it basically came down to the idea that the restaurant is "collective effort," so "those other people’s efforts still count."
Her two slight problems with Otoko: the exorbitant price tag, and the awkward end-seats where diners don't really get to interact with the chefs.
Pat Sharpe over at Texas Monthly was pleased with Gardner’s phoenix Chicon. A noted fan of its stark vegetable-forward predecessor, she appreciated the Contigo’s team's changes with the reinvented space, from the warmer decor details, the larger happy hour offerings, to new appetizers:
Cocktails in hand (including a sturdy New Delhi Mule with vodka, grapefruit, ginger beer, and cardamom), we fortified ourselves with a smoked-trout dip (tricked out with horseradish-spiked pickled shallots) and a novel carrot hummus (coarsely mashed and studded with crispy slivers of sweet potato). Even better was seductive whipped feta lightened with cream and accompanied by a relish of pickled green tomatoes propped up with onions, mustard seed, and mint (Wiseheart is big on vinegars and fermenty flavors).
She and her group dug into the sharable steak and chicken, which they combined for an all-out DIY taco fest. The seafood offerings were mostly on-point for her, and she appreciated the cheaper bill.
THE BLOGS — Fed Man Walking found a solid burger at Goodall's Kitchen, The Smoking Ho took a detour to FullHouse BBQ in Georgetown, and Dine With Shayda toasted at Irene's and bowled and punched at Punch Bowl Social.