Editor’s Note: laV has permanently closed, as of January 1, 2016.
LaV was recently named among U.S. Wine Enthusiast’s 2015 list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants, and for good reason. Their wine selection is exceptional and they employ two advanced sommeliers. The two-story wine cellar at laV houses over 1,200 different selections, and the wine menu is a book with a much-needed table of contents.
To put laV’s accomplishments into perspective, it is one of only 19 restaurants on Wine Enthusiast’s list in the south. It’s the only one of eight in Texas, and the sole representative in Austin.
Thanks to laV’s advanced sommeliers, both of whom are aiming to achieve the level of master sommelier, laV has curated an impressive wine list. What’s also interesting is that both sommeliers are women. Thankfully, more and more women are entering this field, but in the not too distant past, a female sommelier was almost unheard of. Currently, out of the 147 master sommeliers in North America, only 23 are women.
Each wine I tasted during my last visit to laV had intense layers of taste and aroma. This is the kind of experience you hope for when you splurge a little to try a wine that will enlighten the senses. A great wine engages you in the same manner as an intriguing dinner conversation. It holds your attention throughout the evening. The wines I tried at laV did just that.
Most of the wines on the extensive list are French or Italian, which is to be expected as the restaurant’s cuisine is Provence-inspired. LaV also has several unique selections from around Europe and some from the Americas.
Now, it’s not all about the wine. The food is also exceptional, and the marriage of the two is laV’s specialty. Not to mention, the ambiance is elegant, luxurious and comfortable at the same time. Whether you sit at the bar, on the patio or in the dining area, you won’t be disappointed.
If you have a passion for gastronomy, this place should be at the top of your list to try in Austin. Expect to splurge. Dining at LaV is an occasion that most of us need to budget for, but there is a way to spend a little less during your visit, which I’ll get to later on.
For an appetizer, I had the foie gras, which paired well with a dry, minerally rosé from Burgundy – Val de Mer. Now, even if you don’t like pâté or foie gras, you should try this one. The taste and consistency are creamy, buttery, peppery and delicious. It melts in your mouth and is served with brioche toast made in-house by laV’s Executive Pastry Chef, Janina O’Leary. Her doughnuts are also fabulous, but we’ll get to the dessert course a little later.
Next I tried their stone fruit and burrata salad, which they paired with an Austrian riesling – Loimer from Kamptal. For me, this was the best pairing of the evening, and probably my favorite of the wines I tried. This riesling was not at all sweet. It was slightly acidic, citric and dry with layers of minerality–the perfect contrast to the sweet fruit in the salad.
Next I tried the Surf and Turf dish, which consisted of veal sweet breads, sea scallop and crispy leek spaetzle. This was an excellent and unique dish that was surely a joint effort between Janina and her husband, Executive Chef Sean O’Leary.
And finally, I had to try the octopus. As a die-hard fan of Spanish-style octopus, I’ve been scouring Austin to find someone who knows how to cook it right. Although laV doesn’t serve Galician-style octopus, they do cook it to perfection. If you haven’t yet tried octopus, laV is the place in Austin to do so.
Now for the dessert. I believe this was one of the most indulgent experiences of my life: bleu cheese ice cream topped with caramelized pecans, figs and a port wine reduction, served with seemingly light-as-a-cloud, yeasty and soft on the inside, crisp on the outside brioche doughnut holes.
If clouds were edible, this is how they would taste in a perfect world. I never imagined bleu cheese ice cream could be this good, nor did I ever fantasize about putting it together with doughnut holes. It was the perfect combination of sweet and salty that I won’t be forgetting any time soon, hopefully never.
laV on a Budget
LaV is the perfect experience for a special occasion, but it’s also possible to taste a couple of wines and try a few small plates without breaking the bank. Before you even step in the door, know that the parking lot is valet only, but there is also plenty of street parking nearby.
Go with a group of friends around happy hour, and aim to share three bottles of wine in order to experience the variety in laV’s collection. On Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5:30-7, all bottles are half price, and even the least expensive wines on the list are unique and flavorful. The total comes to about $15 per person for a group of six to try three wines, which is not bad at all. Share a few small plates and appetizers, and ask the sommelier for pairing recommendations.
LaV’s menu will change with the seasons, so you may not find exactly the same plates I tried. But I’m sure laV will continue to impress with dishes and wine accompaniments that perfectly balance multiple layers of flavor. Hats off to the team at laV. The accolades and national recognition are well-deserved.
1501 E 7th St – Website
@natalien_n wants to know:
What is your favorite way to experience laV?