Este, the new coastal Mexican restaurant from chef Fermín Núñez and Sam Hellman-Mass of Suerte, opened on October 3 and has been plastered all over Instagram ever since. The restaurant took over classic Austin restaurant East Side Cafe, which closed in 2019 and had an ample garden now used by the team for growing produce for their restaurants.
Any tour of Este starts with the gardens, which have vegetables grown with rotational farming, purple martin birdhouses, and beehives so bees can pollinate the crops. The front of the restaurant has tables and chairs for waiting, and a wraparound patio leads to outdoor dining with both fans and heaters.
Finally, the open, airy interior is inspired by the waves and dunes of the Mexican coastline, with tile created by architect Matt Garcia and José Noé Suro of Cerámica Suro, who also created the ceramics throughout the building. The eight-seat bar has warm gold-orange tile with waves, while the six-seat chef’s counter has a cooler look from blue and white stone. The dining room seats 80. The Este team worked with architects Matt Garcia Design and Delineate Studio, who also collaborated on Suerte, to design the space.
As for the food, the menu focuses on coastal Mexican fare. Núñez and Hellman-Mass traveled to Mexican seaside cities like Ensenada (touted as the country’s seafood capital), wine country town Valle de Guadalupe, border town Tijuana, Puerto Escondido (another major seafood town), and others. And since this is a Núñez spot, much like Suerte, masa is another important component of the kitchen. This lends to seafood towers full of red chile-marinated shrimp and clams dressed in habanero pico de Gallo, shrimp aguachile negro made with cacao and habanero broth, masa-battered swordfish tacos, and bone-in turbot served with a shishito-anchovy butter. Desserts courtesy of pastry chef Derrick Flynn run along the same lines, with a semifreddo made with frozen Oaxacan crema atop a bed of puffed amaranth, and a guava-glazed apple tart.
Este is currently only open for dinner at this time. Its hours are from 5 to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Reservations are recommended, but there is room for walk-ins.