Fed Man 55: Fabi and Rosi (5)
Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 5: Fabi and Rosi
509 Hearn St. 512-236-0642, www.fabiandrosi.com. Hours: Mon-Fri 5-10pm, Sat 6-11pm. Closed Sun.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.22.12
By history’s compass, 509 Hearn St. is a landmark in Austin’s restaurant evolution. For 20 years, the cottage-style house was the home of Zoot, and before that Kate’s. Zoot chef Stewart Scruggs proposed to his wife on the line there, and it was there that Zoot co-owner Mark Paul took his future wife for their first date.
In 2009, the house on Hearn became Fabi and Rosi, where dishes from Germany, Italy and France “meet cute,” as they say in the movies. Twinkly lights, big sash windows and West Austin cool reflect the young-love esprit of the husband-and-wife team who run the show: chef Wolfgang Murber and Cassie Williamson.
Murber’s strengths find elegant expression in a crepinette, a simple cut of roasted chicken, turned out with a craftsman’s care on a plate balanced in color and texture by quinoa salad and blanched kale. Any post-apprentice kitchen could do it, but Murber’s variation is to wrap the chicken in a thin film of caul fat like a crepinette, assuring a juice-tight seal along with the familiar texture of sausage.
All painted and plated, the crepinette is the well-dressed representative of Murber’s country-style charcuterie. “If you draw a circle around the Alsace and the south region of Germany - Baden, where I'm from - it's very famous for charcuterie,” Murber told me in 2010. “Based on really old traditions, people use every bit of the animal,' he said.
At Fabi and Rosi, “every bit” gets its turn on a changing charcuterie board: creamy chicken liver pâté with a glaze of riesling jelly, a sturdy duck terrine and a beef tartare traditional except for the Wagyu at its core. And if dinner begins with that board, it can finish just as well with a cheese board with four choices. Maybe supple, truffled waves of sottocenere, Valdeon blue and manchego from Spain and buttery brie with sweet-hot pepper jelly.
Each board is $13, and both are ambassadors for the restaurant’s value equation. Soups, salads and small plates like escargot and mussels are $6-$13, and main courses run $13-$24. The proposition becomes even more reasonable during happy hour Mon-Fri 5-6:30p, with $5 and $8 appetizers and $2 off wine and beer. On Thursdays, sparkling wine is half-off by the glass and bottle.
Taste and execution establish value, even in small packages. We found it in a $7 salad of arugula, salty ridges of parmesan cheese and tomatoes with the concentrated flavor of sun-dried and the deep supple scarlet of the newly poached. We found value in an $8 bowl of marrow soup with light-gold stock as clarified as truth, fortified with feathery beef and dumplings with bone marrow’s animating essence — and in expertly seared scallops on cauliflower puree with blood oranges and shaved fennel for $21.
When a dish of truffled ravioli came during a Restaurant Week dinner last year, we wondered at first where the rest of it was, because it was sized more like an appetizer. But it was the best way to appreciate truffles, against a background of handmade pasta in a buttery velouté to amplify the earthen twang.
Its success is measured so far only in years, but Fabi and Rosi is filling a space as expansive as the decades Austinites have been eating in its living room, building a legacy of its own.
(TOP: Chicken crepinette; arugula salad with overnight tomatoes. FIRST INSET: Scallops on cauliflower puree with blood orange gastrique; cheese board with pepper jelly. SECOND INSET: Grilled tomato and zucchini medallion with goat cheese; charcuterie board; ravioli with shaved truffle. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants