Low water, haute dining
Reviewed by Wes Marshall, Fri., July 1, 2011
J5 SteakHouse21814 Hwy. 71 W., Spicewood, 512/428-5727
Remember the Trading Post Wine Bar & Grill in Bee Cave? We gave it a good review back in 2009. That location was a shack at the corner of Bee Caves Road and Highway 71 that had previously been a barbecue and breakfast taco joint. The owners' concept was unpretentious: offer simply prepared meats and fish, emphasizing the best ingredients they could get, all at affordable prices. What set them apart was and is their obsession with making sure the customers are happy, keeping their eyes on every table, paying attention to the details.
Caught between a bad economy, a funky location, and an explosion of new restaurants at the Hill Country Galleria, the owners decided to move business out to the recently vacated space that had housed the Backstage Steak House & Garden Bar. They renamed it the J5 Steakhouse and have wisely brought a few of their best recipes, especially the Firecracker Shrimp ($9.95), with its sweet, hot Thai pepper sauce, and Jaiden's Crab Cakes ($9.95), with an impeccably spicy rémoulade. The owners have also maintained the same determination to provide top-level personal attention to every customer. One Saturday night, we watched as the owners made their way to every single table in their full new restaurant to make sure each customer was happy. I can only name a few other restaurants where that happens.
We've tried most of the entrées but keep going back to three favorites. Top on the list is the simplest concept: a burger. The green chile cheeseburger ($9.95) comes with chipotle mayo for a nice kick. You'll have to be sure you're eating with trustworthy friends because the crispy haystack fries that come with the burger are a sore temptation for picking fingers. J5's most interesting entrée is the Tournedos of Pork ($17.95): three bacon-wrapped tenderloin medallions, about 1½ inches thick, that have been pan-seared. The mouthwatering sweet / sour sauce is made from blackberry gastrique and mango salsa. And, as you might guess from the name, J5 serves a good steak. The rib eye ($19.95) is a basic 14-ounce cut, grilled accurately to your specifications. This is as simple as it gets: a good piece of meat with some salt and pepper. If you feel like gilding the lily, you can add a slab of chipotle butter for $1.50.
The mixed drinks are generous and well-made, and the wine list is fairly inventive. Here's a nice touch: Almost all the wines are available by the glass. Bargain hunters should go for the Redblanc Côtes du Rhône, a biodynamic wine made from Syrah and Grenache ($7, glass; $26, bottle), or Washington's Independent Producers Chardonnay ($5.50, glass; $20, bottle), a steal at the price.