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.
Kobe Japanese Steakhouse's team of chefs crafts a menu bursting with delectable Japanese fare. In the teppanyaki dining room, chefs grill teppan dinners to perfection before diners' eyes on griddles set into each table that facilitate premeal entertainment as well as light after-dinner firewalking. Choose from entrees such as the yakisoba dinner, in which beef, chicken, or shrimp are tossed playfully with vegetables and japanese noodles ($13.50), or opt to have juicy white meat chicken breast grilled to a golden brown with the teriyaki chicken ($12.50). Showy chefs entertain throughout the inclusive, multicourse meal with culinary acrobatics, such as erupting onion volcanoes, skillfully twirling spatulas, or diving out of the window after dinner and landing in the driver's seat of a stolen Ferrari.