Arrive East Austin Hotel is now open on East 6th Street in the city, and, along with it comes two new restaurants — Goan-Portuguese restaurant Vixen’s Wedding and casual Cajun spot Lefty’s Brick Bar. Both restaurants, curated by Lenoir chefs Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher, debuted inside the hotel on Friday, July 12. As Duplechan shared the story behind the two restaurants, Eater Austin photographer Courtney Pierce captured the dishes and spaces.
First up, Vixen’s Wedding:
Duplechan, who was a former chef de cuisine of the Four Seasons in Austin, was not particularly eager to get back into the hotel business. However, Arrive’s stance on the hospitality industry changed his mind (two of the hotel’s co-founders, Chris Pardo and Peter Karpinski, are also alums of the Four Seasons network). Typically a hotel chef oversees usual demands like room service and banquets, which could get in the way of a solid kitchen operation. Arrive separates the two, and allowed Duplechan to create whatever he wanted. He decided to explore Indian food for the flagship restaurant.
Inspired by Indian chef and former colleague Floyd Cardoz, Duplechan focused on Goa, the Indian state that was once colonized by Portugal, for Vixen’s Wedding. He took a two-week trip through Goa with the hotel’s executive chef Greg Zanotti in March to develop the menu, visiting spice farms and eating “like ten meals a day.”
While some people still associate all Indian food with heavy butter and cream, Duplechan wants to highlight Goa’s spices and tropical fruits, like turmeric and cinnamon, mangos and citruses. He also seeks to explore how Portuguese imperialism affected the flavor profile in this region. This is why Vixen’s serves pork and beef, which are prevalent in Goa due to their popularity among the Portuguese, but can be less common in other parts of the country because the predominant religions are Hinduism and Islam, which avoid beef and pork, respectively.
The name Vixen’s Wedding comes from a common term for sunshowers. According to Duplechan, it references the fable of a female fox (aka a vixen) who was marrying a wolf and wanted both sun and the rain for her wedding day (the latter for luck), and thus also represents someone who wants two conflicting things. (Though the idiom exists worldwide, this particular version of the myth could not be verified by Eater.) Duplechan uses the name to describe the Portuguese and Indian influences in Goan cuisine.
Continuing Duplechan’s commitment to using local ingredients, he created dishes like a vindaloo rib served with a coconut salad, which he notes is a play on ribs and coleslaw. He imported Kerala matta red rice, which he likes for its texture and flavor, and made it available as a side dish and as part of the porchetta. Scope out the full menu below.
For Vixen’s decor, local design firm McCray & Co. used bright jewel tones to reflect the vibrancy of spices in Goan cuisine. For example, the light fixtures have a golden yellow interior that represents turmeric. A mural of a vixen adorns the brick wall in the back, and there are nautical touches like a macrame curtain and nets to represent the sea-adjacent position of both Goa and Portugal. The bar also makes use of reclaimed wood sourced from Lenoir’s space on South First.
Duplechan has pulled together a team of culinary powerhouses for the Arrive restaurants: director of restaurants/executive chef Zanotti (formerly of Portland restaurants Muselet and James Beard-nominated Castagna), executive pastry chef Sarah (Prieto) Listrom (formerly of Barley Swine and Uchiko), beverage director Lindsay Drew (of now-closed Guild), and general manager Adam Nystrom (of the famed Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York). It’s also where Thomas Calhoun, former Lenoir pastry chef and executive chef of Aviary Wine & Kitchen, has landed as a sous chef.
Duplechan is, ultimately, tired of fancy dining. With his Arrive East Austin hotel restaurants, he hopes to bring a sense of fun back into eating out, without endless ingredient explanations from servers or too much thinking on the diners’ parts.
“I just want to go into some place and have really good food and some great wine and just leave,” Duplechan explains. “I don’t need it to be some five-hour thing.” He believes this trend towards casual reflects the general attitude of Austin diners. (It’s worth noting that Lenoir got rid of its prix fixe menu in favor of an a la carte menu with optional tasting menu earlier this year.)
Duplechan continues, as a diner, “if I wanted to take a deep dive” into the food at Vixen’s, “there is something [a story, history] behind it all. But if I don’t want to, I just had a great dinner.”
Vixen's Wedding 07.10.19 by Erin Russell on Scribd
VW Menu Drink 02 by Erin Russell on Scribd