We walk in to a single expansive room with a square counter surrounding 5 chefs. The atmosphere is quiet without being reverentially hush hush and there is a bit of interaction between the chef and diners. I enjoy restaurants where the chefs bring the food directly to the diner and also describes the dish. Counter 3 Five VII feels like a western version of an Osakan Kappo restaurant and reminded me quite a bit of my dining experience at L'atelier de Joel Robuchon, itself a western version of a sushi bar. The chefs move quietly and swiftly and there is nary a stain on their whites yet they are able to put out so much food.
Diners have a choice of 3 or 5 or 7 course tasting menus. The interesting thing is not a single dish is repeated amongst the 3 menus, thus there are 15 unique dishes. I opted for the 7 mostly because it was the only one with Uni.Instead of going through all 7 courses, I will talk about the highlights and lowlights.
1. The Uni dish was very good. 3 imaculate sea urchin "tongues" sat on a homemade prawn cracker topped with some sprouts. The creaminess of the urchin played wonderfully with the crispyness of the prawn cracker and the umami in both elements reinforced each other. I could have done without the sprouts though and found them a distraction. I understand the intent to perhaps lighten up the dish but sometimes you don't need to have balance in every dish. The raw flavor of the sprouts didn't mix well.
2. The iberico ham with coffee and pho broth gelee was ambitious but the coffee + pho gelee was too bitter. The ham quality was very high but it seemed marred by the gelee.
3. The scallop in mushroom cream was flawless. I usually find scallop dishes kind of boring but this was such a fullfilling dish that I was very surprised.
4. The Beef brisket dish was very good. Texturally as good as the best central TX BBQ.
5. I wish there was less usage of edible flowers, sproutes, and nasturtium leaves. Yes I know it makes the dishes look a lot prettier but I'm of the opinion that garnishes should always enhance taste.
Counter 3 Five VII is the most ambitious Austin restaurant right now and while there were some misses, there were also some very high highs. I am excited to return.