"Fusion" may have been the industry buzzword of the Eighties, but while other food trends have come and gone, the concept of artfully merging different cultures' cuisines has not diminished. And why should it? A population whose demographic is perpetually evolving can only expect to get more creative – or, as we like to claim in Austin, weird.
Eric Silverstein, founder of the Peached Tortilla empire – multiple food trucks, a bustling catering company, and most recently, a brick and mortar restaurant on Burnet Road – spent his formative years in Japan, grew up on dishes cooked by his Chinese mother, traveled throughout nearby Asian countries like China and Korea, and then moved to Atlanta, Ga., where his culinary adventures continued with his grandmother's down-home cooking.
The resulting influence of Asian and Southern flavors became the inspiration behind the first food truck, opened in 2010. The next three years saw the expansion of the fleet alongside rising popularity and success. Silverstein has spent the past year experimenting and developing recipes with his first restaurant in mind. Opening doors on the same block as their also-new neighbor Taco Flats, the full kitchen is able to produce dishes whose execution was, until now, hindered by the trailers' kitchen constraints. There's only so much you can do with a flat-top fryer and a steam table in a trailer, explains Silverstein. "This menu is going to be much more sophisticated," he says.
In addition to the tacos and Bacon Jam Fries that fans of the food truck know and love, patrons of the sit-down-restaurant can now enjoy entrées that require more advanced cooking methods like the Malaysian Laksa Bowl, comprised of poached shrimp, Japanese noodles, curry seafood broth, bean sprouts, and a 45-minute egg – likely the element most prohibitive to cooking inside a vehicle. The extra cold- and dry-storage space also allows for ingredient-laden dishes like the Thai Chop Chop Salad: a complex combo of – take a breath – napa cabbage, fried tofu, green apple, fried shallots, rice puffs, peanuts, fresno chiles, watermelon radish, and herbs. Dressed in a Thai vinaigrette and "fish sauce caramel," this ain't no grab-and-go salad. Using dishware instead of to-go paper boats allows for elegant plating and presentation. Dishes recommended for sharing are served alongside beautiful Japanese ceramic bowls. The trio of house-made Banchan (kimchi, Japanese sesame cucumbers, and peach-pickled cauliflower) was Instagram-worthy (hashtag #getpeached), as were our cocktails.
Another benefit of 2,500 square feet is the full bar, and Kevin Kok's beverage program deserves mention. The Rye Maple Fizz combines Old Overholt rye whiskey, lemon juice, and maple syrup, and is frothed with an egg white. The Margarita de Peached – habanero-infused tequila, Thai basil, Cointreau, and lime juice – refines the spicy margarita that is popping up on bar menus across town. When asked about the separate, and extensive, whiskey menu, Silverstein explained that it "appeals to the Southern aspect of our brand." Showcasing one Taiwanese and five Japanese whiskeys, it's also a nod to the Asian side. Apple Drinking Vinegar, topped with sparking water, offers a refreshing non-alcoholic option. While not on the menu, they usually have a different flavor of the drinking vinegar (we tried a grape shrub), as well as homemade ginger beer and tonic water. 8 wines are offered by the glass, and the beer list includes several local microbrews, Singha (Thailand), Sapporo (Japan), and Lone Star. A couple of beer cocktails, like the Hill Country Snakebite (Hops & Grain's Zoe pale lager, apple cider, blackberry liqueur) make deciding on a drink order that much harder.
Architect Kevin Stewart (Dai Due, A-OK Chinese) describes his style as "clean. modern. comfortable." and that's exactly how we'd describe the Peached Tortilla. Floor-to-ceiling front windows let in a lot of natural light, which we're sure will be enjoyed when the place opens for Sunday brunch. Designer Matthew Parker's mostly white interior employs booths made of Renaissance park benches, squared-off tables and chairs, and padded bar stools. An intricate orange and red geometric pattern clings to accent walls, and lime green peeks out from under the bar top. While the decor doesn't exactly evoke either Asian or Southern themes, one large framed piece of art on the wall pays homage to Japanese street food; another, Lady Bird Johnson.
The Peached Tortilla has built a loyal following over the past three years, testing and perfecting new dishes out of their mobile trailers and catering kitchen. With their first restaurant, they bring the concept to the table, literally. Pull up a chair and get comfortable.
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