Fed Man 55: Trio (11)

Mike Sutter’s Top 55 Austin Restaurants
No. 11: Trio
98 San Jacinto Blvd. in the Four Seasons Hotel. 512-685-8300, www.trioaustin.com.
Hours: 6:30am-10pm Mon-Thu. 6:30am-11pm Fri. 7am-11pm Sat. 7am-10pm Sun.
By Mike Sutter | Fed Man Walking | 12.07.12
How I wish this place were called Uno rather than Trio, because it would have dovetailed nicely with the gaming imagery that came to mind as I built a case for it at No. 11 on the Fed Man 55. Let’s just say that in the Monopoly of life, some days you’re the tophat and some days you’re the shoe, Boardwalk in the morning, Baltic in the afternoon. At this restaurant in the heart of the Four Seasons Hotel on Lady Bird Lake, they stack the dinner deck with breakfast, lunch and the city’s nicest champagne brunch, and for a few hours, you’re the guy who’s always passing Go. Right after you pay the Luxury Tax.
I’m searching for the right words to describe sommelier Mark Sayre’s relationship with riesling. Passion, obsession, devotion, archival predilection. Fetish. Ultimately, you’re the winner in this game of Words With Friends. Because riesling can be sweet or dry or that broad brassy expanse in-between, and his list checks in on 10 of them, including Domaine Weinbach Reserve Personnelle ($18/glass), a silky Alsatian companion to a dish of Texas Gulf redfish dressed for fall with corn puree, julienned pumpkin and the layered warmth of cascabel peppers ($26).
Sayre is the dealer you want for a restaurant where you can — and should — spend $100 on wine-by-the-glass with dinner. He might pair your roasted rack of lamb with a Spanish priorat Capafons-Ossó Sirsell grenache blend ($14). It was like a blushing fruit tonic for the lamb ($34), a fat three-rib roast in need of a breather from a powerful horseradish mustard sauce. Not to take away from the technique behind the meat, which wore a beguiling rose tattoo from bone to breakfront.
Talk to a wine guy and things can get all Thurston Howell in a hurry. Because my blood will never run blue enough for all that, I took the minerality of a Greek white called Assyrtiko-Athiri from Domaine Sigalas ($12) right to the edge of the cliff: “Like the point of Jefferson’s nose on Rushmore,” I told Sayre. “In the rain,” he countered, jumping right off. It was the right jumping-off point for an appetizer called “Pig & Pinot,” a terrine of roasted pork shoulder suspended in a red-wine gelatin like a more genteel headcheese, served with an egg-spressive sauce gribiche, a poker stack of pickles and criss-crossed toast — a charcuterie plate arranged like a single column of tic-tac-toe. But at $12 for one meat, I can name half a dozen charcuterie boards that win with three across at the same price.
If a hundred-dollar wine tab isn’t in the cards, Trio’s happy hour (5-7 Mon-Sat) is a dealer’s choice of $5 small plates like snapper ceviche or a sampler of Brussels sprouts, shishito peppers and fries to go along with 30 glasses of wine at half-price.
No matter how much David Blaine action the somm laid down, the kitchen had a few card tricks of its own. Chef de cuisine Grant Macdonald, who came from Canada to replace Todd Duplechan when he left to start Lenoir, runs a first-class steakhouse from this burnt-orange, casino-style room, starting with an heirloom tomato salad tossed with goat cheese and Fresno chiles, with a ratatouille hat-tip of smoked eggplant ($11). A 14-ounce bone-in ribeye ($38) rode in like the king with the ax on a cast-iron carriage but behaved more like the queen of hearts. That’s the sleight-of-hand particular to prime beef: all the fire-branded rustic rouge of the saloon with the tender manners of the parlor-bred. All it needed was a trio of steak sauces for show, chief among them a chimichurri like an oiled herbal bouquet.
Across the board — from complimentary popovers to iced tea with frozen tea cubes to refolded napkins to the off chance you might see Jake Gyllenhaal — Trio’s among the city’s nicest places to land. They’ve even put a hotel on it.
(TOP: 14-ounce bone-in ribeye. FIRST INSET: Clockwise from top left: "Pig and Pinot" terrine; Gulf redfish with pumpkin and dinosaur kale; heirloom tomato salad; sommelier Mark Sayre orchestrated a tasting of malbecs from Altos Las Hormigas earlier this year. SECOND INSET: A view of Trio from the bar. Photos by Mike Sutter © Fed Man Walking)
Mike Sutter’s Fed Man 55: Austin’s Best Restaurants