My girlfriend and I dined at LaV tonight. Although I don't get to Austin very often, I think that this restaurant brings something that Austin badly needs -- a very, very good restaurant that focuses on seasonal, fresh cuisine and that has a an absolutely top notch wine list that covers ALL price ranges.
First, the space. Very nice. We dined in the front room, which was a little loud, but not obnoxiously so. And this night was abnormal in that there was a single, large, loud party that contributed the vast majority of the noise. (A high school reunion group, of all things. Several servers commented on this and you didn't have tone a regular to know where the noise was coming from!) The bar, and the dining room were more elegant, more comfortable, and more quiet, though the front room was nice enough. There is limited outside seating.
They have a main menu that is online. Appetizers, small plates, and mains. In addition, there is a hew happy hour menu that is being fine tuned as we speak. The menu is limited (if that's the correct word) to five or six items in each category. Enough to give you a decent. Choice, but not so many that the kitchen can't master each dish.
I had the cold corn soup with peaky toe crab and pop corn. Very good, and the popcorn went better with this dish than mist I've seen it with. My girlfriend had the green bean salad Niceoise with the sous vide duck egg. It was excellent. For Jains, I had a pork chop with a light version of sauce Robert. My girlfriend had a spectacular lamb T-bone with puréed roasted eggplant and an amazing faro with Harissa, mint, and white raisins. The faro was mind blowingly good.
Now for the wine list. It is, to my knowledge, unrivaled in Austin. It may well be unrivaled in Texas. Great depth just where I like it, in French Burgundies. It has gems up and down the price range. Some have complained about the lack of wines at the low end. I think this is unfair. My guess is if you added up all the wines under $100, there are probably more here than in 90% of the restaurants in Austin. The difference is, that there are also hundreds over $100, and probably well over 100 over $1,000. But don't et that intimidate or deter you. The sommelier is friendly, know his list well, and will take as much (if not mire) pleasure finding you really nice wine at a bargain price as he would talking about the deep selection of Domaine Rousseau Clos St. Jacques. I saw interesting French wines as low a/ the $40 range, and there may even be a few lower as I didn't have enough tine to fully review the list. Please! Don't be shy about talking about what you like and don't like with the wine staff. This is a great list to explore and there isn't a pretentious bone in their body. It's a tremendous opportunity.
Service is friendly, somewhat informal, but very competent. Just the way I like it. This restaurant would be one of the three or four best restaurants in Dallas and among the contenders for THE best. And while there are restaurants in NYC with better food -- Daniel, Le Bernardin, and 11 Madison Park come immediately to mind -- it would be a worthy competitor even there. Austin is indeed blessed to have this gem.
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