Restaurant Review: Delicious

Lamar Union concept clears its name

Delicious

1100 S. Lamar #1105, 737/802-3807, www.deliciousatx.com
Mon.-Wed., 9am-11pm; Thu.-Sat., 9am-12mid; Sun., 9am-10pm
Review: Delicious

Let's get one thing out of the way first. It's an audacious act to name a culinary endeavor Delicious. I realize that late-stage capitalism has made it increasingly difficult to come up with one word stamps for Austin's surfeit of fledgling concepts, and cleverness is in short supply anyway in 2016, but the most one can hope for is an endless parade of customers wink-winking when asked how they liked the food. At worst, the name is a provocation for armchair Jay Shermans, hoping to withhold Yelp stars with some carcass of a bon mot. Either way, it brings the type of comment that makes employees seek Jägerbombs at the end of shifts.

But I beg you to not make any side-eyed mention of the name, because the exceedingly pleasant staff at Raj Singh's (Live Oak Market) boutique grocery-cum-restaurant in the Lamar Union development really deserve your best behavior. Neither should you scoff at the random hashtag-ization of dishes or put excess intonation in your voice when you order a "sando." For better or worse, those things are only trappings. And chef Tyler Johnson's (Bacon, Hugo's Restaurant y Tequila Bar, Micheladas Cafe y Cantina) menu is worth consideration with or without them.

Review: Delicious
Photos by John Anderson

Knowing Johnson's résumé, though, doesn't exactly prepare you for what he does at Delicious. Maybe the shedding of genre gave him new freedom, but his menu here rises above that of any of his previous employers. His Mexican dishes are still strong, especially the energetic pozole ($10) and barbacoa street tacos ($5) served for brunch, and he still knows his way around a breakfast/brunch dish, but he isn't just compiling greatest hits. Instead the focus is on accessible dishes of any origin, the kind of quick meals one might grab if you lived in a nearby condo or decided to skip the in-flight meal at the Alamo. The dining room doesn't encourage the lingering common to Austin dining (the rows of rectangular tables and white metal chairs give the room the feel of a chic prison cafeteria), but more care is taken than in the average grab-and-go.

Still, the m.o. of Delicious is convenience, and much attention is devoted to sandwiches. None of them are terribly imaginative, but I've never been convinced that's what most people want in a sandwich anyway. Not when there's simple pastrami piled on rye ($14), dressed only with beer mustard and pickle. Even done poorly, that sandwich has plenty of appeal, but Delicious' generous slice and assertive salt makes all the difference. The same holds true in the beef & cheddar ($14) – a designer imposter that ups the ante on Arby's familiar formula without sacrificing familiarity – and the grilled cheese ($13) – a sandwich that earns its price point with a tumble of short rib. The Backyard burger ($13) is fine, but the architectural burgers around town have laid a certain foundation to my palate. Even with an adder of bleu cheese ($1) and a slathering of aïoli, it still needed something extra. Likewise, the herb turkey's ($12) whole grain bread sopped up the moisture from the sandwich. Better to go with the smoked chicken salad melt ($11), a similar sandwich that has added juice from a tomato. With the Keep It Local salad ($14) – a seasonally shifting offering of winter squash, barley, apple, and brown butter – it's the sort of thing one might imagine Nan Kempner eating in a Bill Blass suit.

The bites menu is more adventurous, offering a cross-cultural tour through current trends. The trio of raw offerings stand out – especially an effervescent aguachile ($14) that contrasts tender scallops with crisp radish and jicama and crunchy pepitas, all in a verdant jalapeño/cucumber puree. Neither the ahi poke (served in a beautiful swirl of thinly sliced avocados – $14) nor the wagyu tartare ($15) quite held my interest quite as effectively, but the tartare had spunk from a house hot sauce and the poke from judiciously sprinkled togarashi. I'll forgive the Korean fried chicken wings ($11) of their fussy plating with rolled-up cucumbers and microgreen tangles. Sometimes, it just takes crisp skin. The winter squash ghanoush ($7), unfortunately, forgot that textural lesson. The dip itself, gently spiced with fruity Calabrian chile, was plenty good, but the grilled flatbread was overly chewy. Some of the seeded crackers from the tartare would have made a more agreeable companion.

But stumbles aside, Delicious still earns its keep. Austin is so wrapped up in watching the dinner Olympics that sometimes it forgets that its citizens eat in the a.m. too. And though the concept could use a few choices closer to the $10 line, tony fast-casual may be the one area in local hospitality where there is still some room for growth. And as for that name, well, it does look good in neon. I'm just thankful they seem to have dropped their "curators of nom" tagline. If we have the money for a $14 sandwich, we are assumably all adults here.


Delicious

1100 S. Lamar #1105, 737/802-3807
Mon.-Wed., 9am-11pm; Thu.-Sat., 9am-12mid; Sun., 9am-10pm
www.deliciousatx.com
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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Raj Singh, Live Oak Market, Tyler Johnson, Bacon, Hugo's Restaurant y Tequila Bar, Micheladas Cafe, Lamar Union

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