We go to dozens of food media events in Austin each year, and most are colossal bores. The Austin food scene is on fire with countless new restaurants opening, but we’re typically left cold and just sit staring out a big picture window counting the minutes til we can ride over to El Taco Rico and hunker down over a plate of barbacoa.
Then there’s Four Seasons. The 900lb gorilla of fine dining in Austin has been at the top for so long that they could be forgiven if they were content to lay back and rest on their laurels.
But you don’t get to the top by being complacent or lazy, and Trio, the cafe inside the hotel, has undergone a massive revamp that ensures their position in the upper echelon of dining in Central Texas.
Last week we ran by to ogle the new menu, sit at the bar, quaff a few cocktails and see what all the fuss is about.
The food comes in a torrent of deliciousness.
Chef de cuisine Scott Higby’s years under the old master Elmar Prambs has clearly served him well.
A basket of house cut fries, an oddity in Austin where even the best restaurants wrestle around in a freezer to get at them potatoes, are perfectly cooked, and served with a nice truffle aioli.
Broken Arrow Ranch antelope sliders are charred, bloody and of an ample enough portion to constitute a full meal.
Arrabiata meatballs show a careful hand as the meat has not been over-worked during prep, and is served achingly tender.
Brussels sprouts’ moment in the sun will surely come to pass but these crunchy beauties show no sign of abating the movement. We could eat a gallon.
Chicken fried sweetbreads (always sounds better than thymus glands or pancreas) are perfectly prepared and done soul food-style which is to say deep fried. Bearnaise comes on the side and shows a saucier hard at work in the back.
Tuna tartare trots out in the Mexican format, on tostada shells with cotija. A server notices our disinterest (the flesh was warm) and immediately and without warning races out of the kitchen with a bracingly cold, and delicious, remake.
Snapper ceviche illustrates the importance of careful sourcing. When you have the resources of a Four Seasons you can afford the best seafood on the planet. As this dish represents.
While the Californians are now running the show in Austin we still have our foie gras. For now. A creamy, insanely rich terrine that could feed an army of eaters hits the table like a runaway truck. We set upon it like hungry jackals, smearing it on house-made brioche and stop just sort of baying with pleasure.
Of course every restaurant of note in Austin now has an ambitious cocktail program and Trio is no different. We start the bacchanal with a Buffalo Soldier, a boozy, bourbon-y ode to Kentucky via the Buffalo Trace distillery. A Chef’s Garden comes next, and will hopefully fortify us once the impending doom of Summer settles in. Dripping Springs vodka gets a serious heat blast off serranos that is sweetly tempered with cool cucumber.
As a grace note at the end of the meal, a towering stack of hot, freshly cooked donuts arrives with a brace of sauces, the chocolate being the star of the show.
Four Seasons is fancy. It’s long been our special occasion restaurant that we visit when it’s time to celebrate our good lives in Austin, Texas. But with a crazy, cheap (for them) happy hour it’s looking like we’re going to have to amp up our presence down there in 2014.