Jeff Blank and his kitchen crew like to joke that other cooks must suffer from a "fear of cooking." That's because, for the award-winning chef, cooking is a kind of alchemy—an ambitious experiment that is sometimes fated to fail. But when it works, Jeff and his Executive Chef Kelly Casey transform fresh ingredients, often plucked from local farms and ranches, into piquant dishes adorned with housemade sauces, such as tomatillo white chocolate, mango jalapeño, and bourbon vanilla praline. Behind the kitchen, a stone smokehouse infuses ostrich, rattlesnake, and venison meats with dusky notes, creating entrees that have won them recognition for the Best Wild Game Dish from readers of the Austin Chronicle.
Diners take in the gustatory array on a patio and in a garden gazebo, surrounded by vegetable plants, flowers, and trees wrapped in petite nodes of light. Even the rustic, upscale décor—characterized by soft candlelight, red tablecloths, and vibrant paintings along exposed-stone walls—has earned acclaim, finding favorable mention in the New York Times' travel guide.
Taking traditional culinary techniques and squeezing them through a filter of modern influences, Nagoya Steak and Sushi refines its menu of familiar Japanese cuisine. Manning tabletop hibachi grills, chefs entertain their hungry audiences by juggling utensils and causing the grills' surfaces to spout flames while they sear orders of chicken, steak, and lobster. Back in the kitchen, another team of chefs sets about topping crispy fillets of red snapper with lime-chili sauce and glazing tuna steaks with teriyaki-balsamic blends.
Striving to create more delicate–yet equally enticing–dishes, sushi chefs fill plates with meticulously sliced sashimi and carefully folded rolls. While the maki selection features a number of traditional sushi-house staples, it also includes the restaurant's own custom-designed creations. Featuring such premium ingredients as lobster tempura, filet mignon, and individually steamed rice grains, these signature rolls offer a fancy dining experience akin to picnicking atop a blimp.
The Emerald Restaurant's quaint cottage, just minutes from Hill Country Galleria and Lake Travis, flings open its wooden doors to welcome diners into a fairy-tale-like milieu rich with Irish china, lace tablecloths, and fine crystal. Originally built as a private residence, The Emerald Restaurant has enjoyed 30 years as a community landmark under the ownership of the Kinsella family. Just like lunch in elementary school, most meals are presented on a silver platter, showcasing European-style and modern American cuisine including steaks, lobster, fish, and duck. The intimate space sets a romantic mood that frequently attracts wedding proposals and exchanges of everlasting-platonic-friendship rings.
Because cravings don’t often wait for convenience, the cooks at Texas Steak Out take care of the leg work: They deliver their all-American breakfast, lunch, and dinner to diners’ front doors. Relieving patrons of the task of hunting a steer, they grill rib eyes, sirloins, and steak tips, complemented by philly cheesesteaks and a horde of hoagie sandwiches. Their hearty meals come with classic steak-house sides such as steamed broccoli and mashed potatoes. For breakfast, diners can feast on egg and cheese hoagies and breakfast rolls, or opt for a heavier Texan breakfast of sirloin steak or pork chops with eggs and hash browns.