Ever stare at a restaurant menu and start to panic? Feel your mind spin as you frantically search Google for food definitions? What’s a haricot vert? Why would I want a deconstructed tuna tartar? Can’t I just get a steak?
While I love exploring the new flavors and exciting techniques of Austin’s exploding food scene, sometimes I crave simple goodness. Enter 827Ray’s, a new French-inspired restaurant in northwest Austin by Lake Travis. A refreshing blend of upscale class and down-home charm, 827Ray’s delivers quality cuisine without the need for a dictionary or pretense.
World Class Beginnings
It all started with a conversation about NASCAR. While working at The University of Texas Golf Club as Executive Chef, and Food and Beverage Director, Chef Wayne Brooks met Kerry Grimes, a regular patron at the club. Over their mutual love for car racing, the two became fast friends and the idea for a restaurant began to take shape.
With one owner a laid-back culinary artist, the other a fun foodie, 827Ray’s decor combines the style and personality of both. Fine art lines the main dining room’s white walls as antique fireplaces complement modern lighting. The lounge area, with a long dark bar and ample seating, is suited for after-work crowds or cocktails following an afternoon of boating on Lake Travis. All with a comfortably classy vibe that’s very ATX.
With an affable smile and easy-going personality, it’s hard to imagine Chef Brooks running a kitchen brigade. But the proof is in his sterling resume. From Executive Sous Chef at La Mansion del Rio in San Antonio to participating in national competitions, Brooks is a seasoned veteran.
He also has a unique, unpretentious point of view when it comes to cooking. “I don’t like to manipulate the food too much,” shared Brooks. “There are many chefs out there that do a wonderful job at molecular gastronomy or turning food into something off the wall, but that’s not what I do. I like to let the ingredients shine for themselves. I like to pair flavors in a way that complements and highlights each other.”
This philosophy shines through the entire menu. The pan-fried shishito pepper and roasted cauliflower appetizer is clean, crisp and true to the vegetables it contains. A bed of sundried tomato aioli adds subtle sweetness, giving the dish an extra dash of flavor. It’s amazing when peppers actually taste like peppers!
Another outstanding appetizer is the baked goat cheese. Surrounded by a lake of red pepper and tomato puree, served with freshly-baked French bread, the dish is absolute decadence. A satisfying blend of creamy, sweet and crunchy, it begs to be enjoyed while relaxing in 827Ray’s well-appointed bar area.
Focus on Freshness
Another big focus for Chef Brooks is keeping the menu fresh. About a third of the dishes change monthly based on seasonality, but staples like lemon chicken and fall-off-the-bone pork oso bucco remain year-round. Plated with perfectly-cooked broccolini and hearty mashed potatoes, this pork is kicked-up comfort food.
On the seasonal front, I tried the delectable and tender grilled quail. Served on a bed of wild mushroom and pea risotto, the entrée blends delicate and rich, fresh and fragrant.
827Ray’s even offers some rock-solid desserts. The crème brule is silky while staying surprisingly light and airy. An extra garnish of luscious dark fruit seals the deal.
And don’t get me started on the wine list. I could do another article on 827Ray’s exceptional offerings. Nearly 100 varieties, 30 of them available by the glass, are on the list. And if you’re not sure what to get, feel free to ask the staff. The bottle of 2014 Anne Amie Pinot Noir my waiter Hunter recommended paired beautifully with the pork oso bucco. Nailed it!
Inspired, Comfortable Experience at 827Ray’s
Like a painting or musical piece, restaurants are direct representations of the people who run them. Thanks to a Chef Brooks and co-owner Kerry Grimes, 827Ray’s effortlessly combines Texas elegance with Southern comfort. With an ever-changing menu of approachable and delicious meals, there’s always a reason to go back for seconds.
3519 Ranch Road 620 N. – Website
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Have you visited 827Ray’s yet? If so, what was your favorite dish?
Disclosure: 827Ray’s comped my meal during my recent visit for the purposes of this review. All opinions are my own.