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Statesman Loves the Revamped Foreign & Domestic

The Chronicle survives a spice assault at Chennai Cafe and goes back for more

The venison tartare from Foreign & Domestic
The venison tartare from Foreign & Domestic
Foreign & Domestic/Facebook
Erin Russell is associate editor of Eater Austin, a native Austinite, and a big fan of carbs.

Statesman critic Matthew Odam revisited perennial nose-to-tail favorite Foreign & Domestic, following a change in ownership last year. Odam was pleased with the stayed course taken by the new owners, chefs, and Parkside alums, Sarah Heard (who is a semi-finalist for the Eater Young Guns award) and Nathan Lemley.

Odam started with the flash-fried beef tongue, a holdover from the previous menu, and calls it “as good as or better now than it’s ever been.” He also praised the Parisian gnocchi, which offered a little bit of lemon zest to brighten the dish, and inventive desserts like the cast-iron black butter chocolate chip cookie.

The high point for Odam came from the house-made pasta dishes:

Ribbed spirals of gemelli hid all sorts of delights. There were the tiny bits of guanciale, often overcooked or oversized in many similar dishes; the ramp used in the pesto to give it that grassy riverside quality; infinitesimal bits of cashews for crunch; and the umami of grana padano that tied it all together and lifted it up ($12). The textures, the balance, the subtlety, knowing exactly when is enough — that’s what I want from a kitchen.

Odam did have small complaints: a burger that came with unrequested but charged upgrades of an egg and bacon and food that was “almost to the point of belt-busting discomfort at times.”

Overall, he concluded: “The food comforts you [...] while also surprising and impressing you without grandstanding or self-indulgence.”

Chronicle reviewer Emily Beyda found a rare purveyor of South Indian cuisine at Chennai Cafe in Round Rock. She ventured into the “surreally opulent” cafe, noting the menu’s emphasis on seafood, coconut, vegetarian ingredients, along with a mouth-searing level of spice.

On a first visit, she admitted she may have overdosed on the delicious murukku (fried rings of dough). The next dish was the essential sambar (“a tamarind and lentil broth-based vegetable soup”) and she was delighted to find it “delectable and super velvety.” The meal was capped off with the “kabillion-Scovilles-hot chile burn” of nilgiri curry with paneer and fresh mint to ease the fire.

On a second visit, Beyda prepped her palate with neer moor, a spiced buttermilk drink before digging into incendiary arcot biryani and puzhi kuzhambu poondu. She noted:

[T]he intensely spicy sauce was a little surprising, to the degree that the whole cloves of garlic that studded the sauce tasted surprisingly neutral, even a little sweet, in contrast.

Beyda closed the meal with karuvadu kathirikkai kuzhambu, a dry fish and eggplant stew, which turned out to be her favorite dish. Overall, she called it “a fantastically enriching culinary experience.”

For Austin Monthly, Darcie Duttweiler visited 101 by Tea Haus, declaring the noodle dishes and chicken curry rice to be big hits.

ON THE BLOGS: This Doesn’t Suck tried newly open The Switch and found the po’ boys to be “amazing;” DiscoveringATX loved the atmosphere and the al pastor at South Congress food truck Taco Man 512.

Foreign & Domestic

306 East 53rd Street, , TX 78751 (512) 459-1010

Chennai Cafe

3203 South IH-35 #560, Round Rock, TX 78664 Visit Website