In a world of endless flavor possibilities and culinary combos, chefs these days are taking some seriously bold chances and making edgier moves with their dishes every day. But none are quite as daring as the rule-bending, revolutionary, anything-goes deconstructed trend taking over the food scene. By dividing our favorite dishes into their delicious components, these innovative chefs have created a whole new tasted experience that takes a familiar flavor and turns it on its head. Undressed, undone and undeniably delectable, these deconstructed dishes are a point of culinary controversy among the foodies and food aficionados of the world. The ingredients are all there, but presented in an entirely different way. Is it an act of ostentation or sheer genius to put an “unprepared” plate on the table and let the diner to the assembling? Either way, these delightful deconstructions make some damn good deviations from the dishes we all know and love. So from naked cakes to unprepared pies, here are 8 of the best deconstructed desserts in Austin!
Ants on a Log at Nightcap
Set in a charming old bungalow on west 6th Street, Nightcap is a sexy little after-hours spot with inventive handcrafted cocktails and thoughtfully prepared desserts and small dishes. At its conception, Nightcap was a place where couples and friends could get a post-dinner drink and a tasty amuse-bouche to cap off the evening. Hence the name Nightcap! Since then, these clever culinary night owls have expanded their menu offerings to include gourmet bar snacks like Waygu Beef Tartar and Oxtail Marmalade, tapas-style shareables like Crispy Pickled Cauliflower, late-night desserts and seasonal dinner courses that include Seared Ora King Salmon and tender Lamb Loin. If you’ve got a sweet tooth then you’ll love Nightcap’s collection of indulgent grown-up desserts like the Banana Caramel Cake with peanut, brûlée banana and chocolate sorbet and the Vanilla Yogurt Panna Cotta with cinnamon tuille and butternut squash compote. But the dessert that stands out among the rest in taste, ingenuity and boldness is Nightcap’s playful interpretation of a childhood favorite: Ants on a Log! This devious deconstructed dessert comes with creamy peanut butter panna cotta, cool celery sorbet, fig compote, dehydrated celery and candied peanuts. But what about the ants?? There’s actual black ants sprinkled on top of the whole thing! Don’t worry, they’re dead…but they do add an oddly delicious little crunch to the whole bite that you can’t help but enjoy. So let the kid in you come out and try a dessert with actual ants, because it may just be your new favorite thing!
Carrot Cake at Fixe Southern House
Another upscale west 6th street establishment, Fixe is a Southern eatery that specializes in elevated comfort foods that feed our souls and fill our bellies. The interior of this high-dollar restaurant is cozy and beautiful, with a mix of rustic-chic and modern eclecticism. There’s rich wood flooring and wood paneling throughout the space, plush leather armchair seating, atlas wallpaper and antique pictures adorning the walls. On the menu you’ll find quality wines, craft beers and cocktails, as well as an appetizing array of chef’s creations like Duroc Pork Shoulder, Lobster and Crawfish Pot Pie and stick-to-your-ribs Anson Mills Antebellum Grits with carnivore, pescavore and herbivore options. They’ve also got a loaded Sunday brunch menu with offerings like Deviled Eggs, Brioche French Toast and Soft Boiled Eggs Benedict that are totally worth rolling out of bed before noon for! And if you’ve got a hankering for something sweet after dinner you can splurge even further on one of Fixe’s elegant desserts like the Brioche Donut with vanilla bean custard, sunflower seed streusel and honey ice cream or the Chocolate Truffle Cake with wheat berry, caramel and salted pretzel ice cream. But if you’re looking for a delicious twist on a traditional southern dessert, try Fixe’s Carrot Cake ‘Tres Leches’. This beautifully deconstructed dish is comprised of candied carrot jam, pineapple and goat milk ice cream. It’s the perfect blend of salty and sweet and a little slice of heaven!
Thai Tea Affogato at Sway Thai
Located in eclectic south Austin, Sway is a hip and modern Thai fusion restaurant and wine bar with an open layout and plenty of Austin atmosphere. There’s a quaint little ‘tea garden’ around the side of the restaurant, with a canopy of lights strung overhead and walls of plants surrounding the courtyard. Inside, you’ll find dark woods, interesting Asian-style lanterns and an open kitchen where you can see Sway’s culinary masters hard at work. This tasty lunch and dinner restaurant has taken advantage of the asian fusion food trend sweeping Austin. If you’re a wine connoisseur then you’ll appreciate Sway’s carefully curated list of wines that range from white and red to rosé and moscato. They also offer a handful of intriguing fusion drinks like the Kosmic Salty Dog with grapefruit and sea salt and the Sway House Brew with lemongrass, kaffir lime and young coconut water, as well as a selection exotic tea blends like Ginger Pu-erh and White Chai. The dinner menu at Sway is filled with colorful and worldly foods including different variations of stir fries, wok noodles, curries, seafood and fried rice. You can also enjoy a one-of-a-kind fusion brunches at Sway that include Thai Basil Chicken and Waffles, Mapow Biscuit and Gravy and refreshing Hibiscus Grapefruit Mimosas on the weekends. This restaurant doesn’t do ordinary, and that includes their desserts! And if you somehow managed to save enough room after a delicious eastern-influenced dinner, then you absolutely have to try the Thai Tea Affogato off the dessert menu. This decadent, deconstructed Thai Tea is made with creamy condensed milk ice cream, black tea tapioca, macadamia crumble and sugary sweet Thai Tea. After a few sips you’ll be buzzing for a while from all the sugar and caffeine!
PB&J at Barley Swine
If you’re craving some totally fresh, totally filling farm-to-table fare, head to Barley Swine. This high-end, fixed price restaurant is a foodie’s dream come true, with a seasonal menu rife with locally sourced, consciously made meals inspired by the farmers of central Texas. Chef Bryce and his talented team of food visionaries are passionate about creating new flavors and exploring new avenues with their dishes. That’s why the menu offerings at Barley Swine are extremely selective, seasonal and based on the “chef’s aspirations” for that particular week. This is not the place for picky eaters to request substitutes or modifications to the menu. Nay, that would be an insult to the entire purpose of this whole dining experience, which is to try something new. So just sit back and let the chefs work their magic on your palette as you venture further and further outside your food comfort zone. Some of the savory menu offerings at Barley Swine include Pig Face Carnitas, Akaushe Bavette Steak and Crispy Pig Ear Slaw. You can also order something called “Snacks”, which comes with an assortment of sweet, salty and crunchy items and donates $1 to the SFC Farmer’s Market. Or you can try the prixe-fixe chef’s tasting menu from Chef Bryce, which includes sensational selections like Quail and Spicy Sausage, Spanish Mackarel and Tart of Apple, with optional wine pairings that add a little oomph to your dinner. You can also find a great drink menu with craft cocktails, beer and wine, and something called “Swine Time”, which is Barley’s Swine’s version of happy hour. For dessert, take your pick of mouthwatering treats like Toasted Rice Panna Cotta with grapefruit and cinnamon and Spiced Italian Donuts with butternut squash and espresso. But Barley Swine really outdid themselves when they reimagined one of our cherished childhood snacks, the PB&J. This scrumptiously deconstructed dessert is made with persimmon, sourdough, pecan and bourbon. What better way to enjoy a PB&J than with booze?
Spiced Chocolate Old Fashioned at Prohibition Creamery
Located in burgeoning east Austin, Prohibition Creamery is an awesomely original ice cream concept that offers booze-infused ice cream flavors and inventive ice cream cocktails. Mastermind and founder Laura has taken our two all-time loves – ice cream and booze – and combined them into one amazing adult dessert that appeals to the kid and grown up in all of us! Perfect for a gals date or unique first date, this drunken dessert bar is full of fun flavors, friendly faces and one-of-a-kind creations that will leave you stuffed – and maybe slightly intoxicated! Once you walk inside you’re greeted with the sounds of old school hip hop and people buzzing on sugar and booze everywhere! Grab a seat at the bar – if there’s room – and go for a semi-traditional scoop of ice cream in flavors like Sangria Sorbet, Egg Nog, Mezcal Vanilla, Whiskey Chocolate and Signature Bourbon. Or sip on one of Prohibition’s whimsical craft cocktails like From Russia With Love with RumChata, Bailey’s Irish cream, vodka, cream and cinnamon, or Casino Nights with gin, Luxardo Maraschino, lemon, honey and activated charcoal. This eccentric creamery also has a great selection of ice cream floats made with cold brew coffee, milk stout or root beer, as well as homemade milkshakes – with or without alcohol – in flavors like Horchata, Bananas Foster, Irish Coffee and Triple Bourbon. But newbies and regulars alike just can’t get enough of Prohibition’s tantalizing Spiced Chocolate Old Fashioned. This deconstructed Old Fashioned dessert cocktail comes with Rye Whiskey, chocolate bitters, habanero shrub, lemon oil and cocoa powder. It’s dark, bittersweet and irresistibly enigmatic, much like the creamery itself!
S’more Fried Pie at The Hightower
Another popular grub spot in east Austin, The Hightower is a cozy neighborhood hangout that dishes out globally-inspired elevated comfort food known as New Texan Cuisine. This corner bar on east 7th is recognizable from the outside by their inviting outdoor patio, where you can chill and drink craft cocktails, and their iconic sign, which was painted by local artist Federico Archuleta. Inside, you’ll find a warm and welcoming space with weathered floors, interesting chandeliers, rustic-chic furniture and shelves of antique books and pictures lining the walls. The cleverly curated food menu at Hightower is a mouthwatering blend of eastern European and Mexican flavors that represent the rich and diverse history of Texas while incorporating locally sourced seasonal ingredients. This fantastically fresh New Texan food is super creative and totally craveable. Every dish is presented with a panache that can’t be matched, and takes even the most simple of recipes and turns them into a masterful mishmash of cultures, traditions and tastes. Locals love to brunch at Hightower because of their reviving brunch cocktails with a little hair of the dog and their bodacious brunch platters with Chicken and Waffles and Dutch Baby Pancakes as big as your face! The dinner drink menu has a variety of draught beers, bottled/canned beers and craft cocktails made with fresh ingredients like strawberry shrub and tamarind. And Dinner menu highlights at Hightower include small plates like Fried Gulf Oysters and Blistered Green Beans, as well as larger plates like the Beef Tartare Tostada, Corned Beef Short Rib Tacos and Flat Iron Steak. But save some room for dessert, because there’s a tiny but enticing menu of sweets that are to die for, along with a selection of aperitifs in the form of nightcaps, scotches and single malts. The Apple Tart is tangy and served a la mode with Buttermilk ice cream, and the Chèvre Panna Cotta is subtly complemented with candied peanuts, chamoy and tamarind meringue. But the hands-down favorite on the dessert menu this season is the smokey sweet S’more Fried Pie. This incredible creation is a deconstructed S’more with all the best parts of our favorite campfire treat, including charred marshmallow, rich chocolate, cinnamon ice cream and a little mesquite smoke for that perfect fire flavor. Now that’s one fancy S’more!
Apple Pie Voulevant at Sophia’s
Perched right off upscale W. 6th street, Sophia’s is a super sophisticated supper club that offers fancy Italian-American dinners and desserts along with handcrafted cocktails and late night bites Thursday-Sunday. This isn’t the kind of place that you just walk into for dinner. So it’s best to make a reservation just to be sure you get a good seat – especially if you’re trying to impress a first date or group. The spacious 3,700 sq. ft interior of Sophia is like a sexy European cellar, with exposed brick walls, dark wood floors, plush velvety seating and plenty of dark corners for close conversations. Executive Chef Mark Sparacino is responsible for the flawless dinner offerings at Sophia’s, which blend traditional Italian family recipes with tasty contemporary twists. The mixologists at Sophia’s are masters of the craft and create delicious Italian-inspired cocktails like La Donna with Ketel One and Prosecco, the Fresca with Don Julio and soda and the Espresso Martini with Tito’s Vodka, Bailey’s Irish cream, chocolate and espresso. On the dinner menu, you’ll find exotic appetizers like Carpaccio, Burrata, and Grilled Octopus. And the chef is especially known for his handmade pastas, whole fish and shareable Antipasti with a hand-selection of specialty imported cured and house made charcuterie. Try one of Sophia’s popular homemade pasta dishes like Linguine Clams, Fettuccini Bolognese and Orrechiette Tartufate with cremini mushrooms and black truffle cream. The pescatarians will enjoy Sophia’s delicate seafood dishes like Sea Scallops and Grilled Salmon, and carnivores will go crazy for the Petite Filet with bone marrow butter and the Smothered Double Pork Chop with creamy potatoes. But let’s skip to the best part: dessert! There’s a divine Tiramisu Sundae with mascarpone semifreddo, lady fingers, espresso and dark chocolate ganache, creamy Dreamsicle Pops with orange and vanilla bean panna cotta and fresh gelato and Italian ice. But if you’re looking for a creative and modern take on one of America’s oldest and most beloved desserts, try the Apple Pie Voulevant. This complex deconstructed dessert is made with a puff pastry and salted caramel popcorn base that is layered with Granny Smith apples, apple cider jellies, walnut crumble and baked apple chips and served with a side of cream cheese semifreddo and blood orange. This fall menu find is just as delicious as it is convoluted!
*Update Nov. 2019: Sophia’s is now Devil May Care, a modern Mediterranean night spot with shareable healthy fare and creative cocktails.
Kokumotsu at Uchiko
The delicious child of Austin’s beloved Uchi, Uchiko is an uber trendy and tasty fusion restaurant known for their fancy fresh seafood and veggie creations. The restaurant itself is intimate and homey, like having dinner at a friend’s home – a friend’s very nice downtown home. Chef and owner Tyson Cole is dedicated to using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients and providing a different food perspective that redefines the Asian fusion genre. Termed “Japanese Farmouse” cuisine, the worldly menu is an alluring mix of composed dishes and sushi accented with unusual and intriguing flavors. One thing that won’t escape your attention when you eat here is the meticulous attention to detail when it comes to plating and presentation. Every dish that comes to the table is like a small edible work of art, with carefully exotic flowers and vibrant colors that make the food almost too pretty to eat! Oh, but you will. Because each bite is like an explosion of culture and faraway flavors, with interesting textures, tastes and after tastes. The main menu is loaded with a variety of dishes that range from hot tastings and cold tastings to greens and agemono. This dining experience is best shared, that way you can just ordered a bunch of different dishes and share with the table. Some popular food picks include the Coffee Bacon with pear jam and apricot, Onion Ring Tempura and the Kamo Kemuri with seared duck breast. For the sushi fans, Uchiko’s offerings include sushi and sashimi as well as a few specialty makimono rolls like the Tiger Cry with grilled Waygu and the Ham and Eggs with katsu pork belly. There’s also an Omakase Chef’s Tasting menu where you can sample all the best that Chef Tyson Cole and his team has to offer. Every part of your meal at Uchiko is exceptional and beautiful, and dessert is no exception! Pastry Chef Ariana Quant pulls out all the stops with her sweet dishes, which include light Jasmine Cream with cilantro granita, pineapple and honey, Apple Pavé with oat streusel, bay leaf and creme fraiche ice cream and the Chocolate Maru with chocolate cremeux, seasonal fruit, peanut brittle and barley ice cream. But if you want to see and taste a dessert that’s really outside the box, order the Kokumotsu. The main ingredient in this inspired dessert is fried milk…what?! It’s almost like a deconstructed bowl of cereal, with toasted milk and a sheet of fried milk, chocolate mousse and actual cereal – which could possibly be just Cap n’ Crunch sprinkled on the bottom. But still, cereal has seriously never tasted this good!
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