Simplicity Wine & Eats
Parind Vora's new endeavor provides a casual spot for gourmet food and drinks
Reviewed by Claudia Alarcón, Fri., Feb. 26, 2010
Simplicity Wine & Eats4801 Burnet Rd., 553-4844
Monday-Saturday, 4-11pm; Sunday, 11am-4pm
Once in a while something really unique and honest comes along in the Austin dining scene, but it may take a while before people take notice. Case in point: Simplicity Wine & Eats, a sister endeavor from Restaurant Jezebel's chef Parind Vora. It opened quietly on a stretch of Burnet Road that has seen a face-lift over the last few years, near the Rosedale neighborhood, almost next door to the Omelettry. As the name implies, this neighborhood wine bar is nothing fancy. For starters, the interior was not done by a famous designer. The space is a refurbished old strip-mall location with mix-and-match furniture consisting of a few bar tables, small tables for two, large round tables for convivial group gatherings, and a couple of lounge areas with couches and coffee tables. The bar is pleasantly set up, with modern-looking but very comfortable bar stools. The walls are painted in muted earth tones and decorated with tasteful wine-related paintings by Claire Hees, a talented young painter who is also the bar's manager. There's plenty of parking and a small evolving patio area. At night, tables are lit with votive candles, and the cool sounds of bossa nova give the whole place a cozy, comfortable feel.
The fare consists of a variety of simple tapas with an exotic slant, all priced at $3.95 except for the specials, which change nightly. (Five plump oysters Rockefeller for $6, seriously.) So far, we like everything we've sampled: crispy jamón serrano croquettes, a creamed spinach and smoked corn spread with hints of Indian spices, gorgonzola cheese drizzled with curry oil, homemade country pâté, and delicious Jezebel olives, served warm with a seasoned balsamic sauce. Most of these dishes are prepared at the Jezebel kitchen by Vora and his staff. Sunday brunch features paella and a couple of breakfast dishes along with the regular tapas menu. All food is served in what seems to be disposable ware, which at first is a bit off-putting, but when the philosophy behind it is explained, it makes perfect sense. All dishes and utensils are compostable and recyclable – made from bamboo, cornstarch, and wood instead of cardboard and plastic – sourced from a local small business. The restaurant composts all waste through a UT-based nonprofit organization. It also recycles all beer and wine bottles, so it's almost a zero-waste restaurant: The 200-seat restaurant produces only three 33-gallon trash bags per week and saves about 3,400 gallons of water a week. Not only is this remarkably responsible, it's the reason the prices can be kept low. No froufrou plates, stemware, or expensive garnishes. The wine list offers a constantly changing selection of 30 to 50 wines from around the globe, with 20 available by the glass (nothing more than $8) as well as for retail sale. The ever-changing "wine of the day" is a mere $4 a glass. On recent visits we've enjoyed the Ste. Chapelle Dry Riesling from Idaho (that's what I thought, too, but it's great!), Archetype Shiraz from Barossa, Volteo Viura/Viognier/Sauvignon Blanc from Spain, and Delas Côtes du Rhône. The most expensive bottles are in the $45 range. Simplicity also serves a small selection of draft beers (and micheladas!), pitchers of homemade sangria, and ports to pair with its chocolate selections.
Don't expect anything fancy at Simplicity. Instead, keep it on your short list for a comfortable, affordable alternative for a friends' gathering or date night that will not make you feel like screaming when the bill arrives. Now, can we get one of these in far South Austin, please?