Lenoir Austin is an impressive and inexpensive prix fixe dinner in the heart of south Austin.
My friend Chantal came to Austin for SXSW, and I believe we’ve started an annual tradition: hit up all the restaurant hotspots in town while she’s here for work, it’s genius.
One of the many places that we went to included Lenoir, and boy was I happy we did. Her friend Monica joined us for dinner, and I was excited because 1). New friend, and 2). More food to try!
Their menu changes weekly and clocks in at $38 per person for three courses. You have the chance to choose from any of the sections, they’re setup under Field, Sea, Land, and Dream. As I’m sure you can imagine, the field dishes are vegetarian, sea dishes are seafood, land dishes include land animals like rabbit, goat, antelope, etc., and dream (what a lovely way to phrase it), are their dreamy desserts.
The restaurant used to be a bungalow that they converted to a restaurant, and it’s very intimate, only seating about 34 people. The place is run by Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher, and they’ve done a phenomenal job.
We started with a delicious and refreshing bottle glass of sparkling wine, I love that they served it in a wine glass, because I felt like I was drinking more, and I was able to get the bouquet wafting off the wine every time I went in for a drink.
We splurged and decided to pony up the extra $5 for their house bread and spread of the day, a delicious naan with a curried pumpkin-hummus type spread. The naan came out warm and fresh from the oven, and the spread had a spicy aroma that complemented the slightly sweet taste of it. It was the perfect way to start the meal and open up my appetite. We had a difficult time deciding what 3 dishes to pick, because they all sounded so great, so we decided to split everything, to my delight.
We started with the beautiful and verdant arugula cavateli, served with escargot, a tangy and velvety preserved lemon brown butter, and marcona almonds for some crunch.
Next up was their hemp soup, served with a sprouted salad, a creamy soft poached egg, and various seasonings. This soup was great, the yolk of the egg adding an extra layer of body to the soup, and we all loved it.
For the Sea dishes, we decided to have one of each so we could try them all. First up was the Snapper crudo, served with a honey lime dressing, avocado purée for silkiness, and cabbage for some crunch. This is one of those dishes you eat with your eyes first, and it was truly fresh and delicious.
The following dish was the least heavy risotto I’ve ever had, it was their nishiki risotto, served with oysters, squid brodo, and garlic shrimp sausage. I never thought to pair oysters with sausage, and it’s a beautiful combination. This dish gives you the heartiness of a good risotto, without the heaviness of it, and it just shows you don’t have to pair it with a heavy cream sauce to make it good.
The last of the Sea dishes was probably my favorite, and maybe the meatiest of the three. It was a poha (flattened rice) crusted Mahi, with a sweet potato pepita purée, swiss chard, and a green garlic molé. I was in heaven, everything about this dish was perfect, you could taste the green without it being overpowering, and the green molé sauce let you have a juicy bite each time.
From here we moved on to the Land dishes. First out was the buttermilk rabbit, served with curried sweet potato, carrots, and braised radishes. Of course, why not serve rabbit with the foods it likes to eat the most? It was a beautiful dish, the buttermilk cuts out any acidity along with any gamey-ness the rabbit may have, and it’s a dish reminiscent of a cold and rainy night.
The following land dish was the confit goat, served atop a coconut semolina polenta, and broccoli. We almost didn’t have this dish, because Chantal “ate goat everyday” when she was in Cuba, and maybe had had her fill of it, but we went ahead and ordered it and were glad we did. When you confit something you cook it in oil (not fry it though), so you can imagine how tender and flavorful it was (or just take my word for it).
Last but certainly not least: roasted antelope. I don’t see antelope often on any menu (save for a few places in Austin), so when I see it I always try to order it. This dish was creative, because it was served with a phó broth, matzo balls, and beech mushroom. It also had a red curry type paste along the side of the bowl, which allowed you to get a little bit of smokiness in each bite if you so choosed. It also included some cilantro, and very much reminded me of the phó that I’m so fond of.
You can’t end an incredible meal like this without the Dream portion of the menu. We all decided to share the rice pudding cake, with thai peanut ganache, mango, and chocolate sorbet. We all behaved ourselves and allowed each other equal shares of the dessert, which sometimes is very difficult (you have to remember your manners when you first meet someone to make a good impression).
Overall it was an incredible experience for the three of us, and neither had been to the restaurant before, although Monica and I live in Austin. I’d highly recommend you try the restaurant out if you haven’t done so already, and make sure to call ahead of time and make a reservation. Since the place is so small and popular, it fills up pretty quickly.
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