First Look: Dai Due
New eatery focuses on local
By Virginia B. Wood,
2:15PM, Wed. Aug. 20, 2014
After taking inspiration for his business model from an old Italian proverb, Dai Due Butcher Shop and Supper Club proprietor Jesse Griffiths stuck with the famous Texas adage about "dancing with the ones who brung you" when his new brick-and-mortar eatery opened this week.
As a thank you to supporters, initial reservations were made available to longtime customers first. Chef Jesse Griffiths built his distinctive locavore reputation by adhering to an old Italian proverb ( "Dai due regni di natura, piglia il cibo con misura" - From the two kingdoms of nature, choose food with care.") and it is reflected in every aspect of the new business. The Dai Due butcher shop opened to the public Tuesday morning and lucky newsletter readers quickly snapped up reservations for the supper club's first official dinner service made with carefully chosen local food.
The shop's display cases are stocked with head butcher Julia Poplawsky's excellent cuts of local meats plus charcuterie, prepared foods, canned items, and pantry staples occupy the front room. Down the hall is a dining room with perhaps 35 seats and a view of the open kitchen. A live fire for grilling, exposed brick walls, and fixtures of reclaimed oak and pecan wood evoke the same rustic, local aesthetic represented in the menu and the food. Once dinner is established, plans call for breakfast and lunch service where seasonal dishes that are popular with farmers' market shoppers will be prominently featured.
The challenge at Dai Due will be to come up with inviting meals and drinks based on all locally-raised or foraged ingredients on a daily basis. We've no doubt Griffiths' staff is equal to the task, what with an A-team local talent such as chef de cuisine Andrew MacArthur, chefs Morgan Angelone and Jason Dodge, and pastry chef Abby Love in the kitchen.
The first night's menu featured a $38 fixed-price Supper Club option with a starter plate of creamer pea puree and herbed goat cheese with rye toast points, summer kimchi grilled eggplant salad, and pickled watermelon. The entree was made up of grilled beef skewers, a goat kefta, and confit of venison ribs with ratatouille, roasted potatoes, long beans, and summer greens with wild grape vinegar and olive oil. A beverage - either cafe de olla or an herbal tisane - rounded out this option, as well as choice of dessert from the list of six. I opted for the fixed price menu and the stand-outs were the tangy watermelon rind pickles, the earthy pea puree, the savory goat kefta, and an incredibly tender, flaky crust encasing the nectarine pie.
Diners were also offered an impressive list of à la carte items: beverages such as Black Yaupon iced tea, French press coffees, and wine or beer cocktails; starters like house cured Texas Arbequina olives with mackerel ($4)and Mesquite flour bread with roasted garlic, honey, and thyme-whipped lard ($4); and entree choices ranging from smoked pork chop with mashers, sauerkraut, apples and pears ($22) to a grilled sirloin tip with grilled lime, charred jalapenos, and cortido ($19).
Our beer writer, Anna Toon, found the steak very much to her liking and was especially impressed with the selection of state and local craft beers on draft, in cans, and in bomber bottles. Dai Due is the only Austin eatery with an all Texas wine list, augmented by one sparkler from New Mexico. The only thing missing from the list is the choice of a wine made from what many consider to be Texas' best grape varietal, viognier. As the list is likely to evolve with new seasonal food options, perhaps there's a viognier planned for the future.
Watching the evolution of Jesse Griffiths' Dai Due endeavor has been an object lesson in what eating local really means and I'm excited to observe the next phase of development. I suggest you check it out.
Dai Due Butcher Shop & Supper Club
2406 Manor Rd.; 512/524-0688
Butcher shop: Tue. - Sun., 10am-10pm
Supper club reservations: 5pm-close