Trace

Austin American-Statesman - - AUSTIN360 DAILY - Rat­ing: Hours: Prices: What the rat­ing means: The Bot­tom Line:

200 Lavaca St. 542-3660, TraceAustin.com 7.5 out of 10 Lunch: 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mon­day-Fri­day Brunch: 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Satur­day and Sun­day. Din­ner: 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sun­day-Thurs­day. 5:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fri­day-Satur­day.

Small plates $10-$15. En­trees $16-$52. Desserts $9. The 10-point scale is an av­er­age of weighted scores for food, ser­vice, value, am­biance and over­all din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, with 10 be­ing the best.

Once you get past the idea that Trace is a Dal­las-y in­ter­loper, you can come to ap­pre­ci­ate what it brings to the ta­ble in Austin’s grow­ing din­ing scene. ba­con that glis­tens with maple syrup vis­cos­ity, the thick-cut pieces tak­ing on the play­ful look and feel of a doggy chew-toy.

Hush­pup­pies ($15) the size of popovers over­flow from a cone of me­tal­lic spires that would look at home at a Madonna con­cert (or on Madonna). Soft hon­ey­combed bread­ing in­side nes­tles pinches of moist Blue Crab that tease more than sat­isfy. The same cones at lunch sup­port a bounty of crunchy golden French fries that come with one of the best cheese­burg­ers in town — a fat, coarseg­rind patty draped with tangy ched­dar cheese, topped with crispy ba­con (dif­fer­ent than the sweet va­ri­ety from brunch) and served on a rich, but­tery brioche bun. The $16 price tag rings of room ser­vice, but the in­cluded fries are much bet­ter than a mint on the pil­low.

Chef Ben Hightower, who ar­rived in Austin in 2010 and worked as ex­ec­u­tive sous chef at Uchiko, has roots in Louisiana, and his ap­pre­ci­a­tion for seafood shows on a din­ner menu that in­cludes three fish dishes.

A firm, meaty co­bia spe­cial ($26), pierced by firm bits of pick­led radish, held up to the grill, which left im­pres­sive ebony char marks. The smok­i­ness was balanced by the nutty sweet­ness of a sun­choke cream through which I dragged the crisp prosciutto chips.

MARK MAT­SON / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Trace is an up­scale restau­rant lo­cated in the W Ho­tel in down­town Austin. Ben Hightower (top) serves as chef. A pop­u­lar item on the dessert menu is the Lemon Budino (mid­dle). One of Trace’s top meals is the Braised Lamb Shoul­der, served with spiced peanut curry, cous­cous salad, mint and cilantro (bot­tom).

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