Downtown Austin restaurant Ember Kitchen & Subterra — touting Latin American live-fire cooking — will open this week. The 800 West Cesar Chavez Street, Suite PP110 space will debut on Wednesday, February 15. Its basement bar Subterra Agave Bar opened earlier this month on February 1.
Eater previously reported that Puerto Rican chef María Mercedes Grubb was the executive chef of Ember, but now she’s the consulting chef. In that role, she helped to create the menu, as explained by a rep. The restaurant’s current executive chef is Nayely Castillo. They grew up in El Paso, and, in Austin, cooked at the wine restaurant Birdie’s, New American restaurant Emmer & Rye, and live-fire restaurant Hestia.
The main focus of Ember is its live-fire cooking, made using its centerpiece equipment, the Josper oven, which uses coals. The menu with heavy Latin American flavors and techniques includes loads of seafood, meats, and vegetables. There’s a seafood tower with a veracruz sauce; meats like steaks, pork chops, and half-chickens paired with sauces like birria jus, charred peach mojo, and mole negro; a fried tamal ahogada braised with a nut adobo; and scallops with corn two ways: smoked mousse and corn nuts. The previously touted tostones-caviar bite is now caviar on top of sopes with crema and crispy capers.
Downstairs from Ember is the restaurant’s lounge, the Subterra Agave Bar. This includes drinks made with a variety of spirits from Central and South America. There’s the Mestizo Negroni made with raicilla, an agave spirit from Jalisco, Mexico; Martini Sabrosa made with blanco tequila, fino sherry, olives, zucchini, cardamom, and celery.
The last component of Ember is the rooftop bar with an alfresco space facing west. That’ll open in the spring.
The giant West Cesar Chavez space had been previously home to Boiler Nine Bar + Grill, which had been a New American restaurant and bar from the Austin hospitality group La Corsha from 2016 to 2019. Ember’s team softened and brightened up the former restaurant’s very industrial, concrete, and stark concrete looks by adding a cherry tree to the ground floor, velvet upholstery, and warmer walnut tables. Egyptian architect and designer Fathy Ibrahim of Insignia Design worked on the restaurant, and designer/project manager Meera Crow did the bar.
Behind Ember is Austin hospitality financial startup InKind (which it spells inKind). The company is using the restaurant as a testing ground for potential programs and operations to eventually recommend to its restaurant clients. People who also are InKind app users — where people pre-purchase credits to dine at participating restaurants — will be able to get access to special events at Ember, like potentially tasting menus and guest chef-run dinner series.
Ember’s hours are from 5 to 11 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and Subterra is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Thursday through Saturday.