|312 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Zax Restaurant and Bar, at the corner of Riverside and Barton Springs, is one of those comfortable neighborhood destinations where you can dine on more traditional pub fare or opt for the finer dining side of the menu with a Mediterranean influence. There are at least twenty regionally brewed beers available and a very cozy ambiance. Time passes very easily and pleasantly here.
My first culinary memory of Zax is a very specific one: the Tortilla Soup. This is a soup that has a more subtle vibe to it than others around the city. The cayenne and Mexican oregano offer ying to the yang of the pureed tortillas, chicken stock, corn and tortillas. In short, the soup which usually says it all about what a restaurant can do, is delicious and yes, still memorable.
I am also inclined to dwell on the appetizers at Zax: sometimes to the exclusion of a more formal meal. They’re very good. The Mussels lead the way and they are as tasty as ever. They’re steamed in a saffron infused curry sauce that elevates these little mollusks to the pantheon of flavor. Highly recommended. As is the lovely Bruschetta. The crostini are covered with beans, prosciutto, roma tomatoes and basil. Add a little goat cheese and fig and this is a bruschetta that resonates with flavor and exquisite texture.The Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes are another treat. The star in this dish is the fresh lump crab: fillers are at a minimum. Accompanied by a zesty remoulade, this dish nails the critical texture and the taste, as it should, unfolds in layers of palate pleasing satisfaction.
The entrees at Zax are considerable more sophisticated that one would expect from a place where microbrews are so popular. But that’s part of the charm. I love the Pan Seared Duck Breast. Duck can be problematic but not at Zax. The green peppercorn mustard sauce should receive some kind of award because it complements the tender duck so perfectly! And the Frenched Pork Chop certainly rises to the occasion. The chop is robust and grilled with an herbs de Provance mustard demi-glace that instantly drabs your attention. Each subsequent bite gets better as the demi-glace settles in. The Seared Sea Scallops Meuniere is another intriguing dish. The plump scallops shine in a lemon butter parsley sauce with the absolutely perfect accompaniment for this dish: a textured cheese pistachio polenta. Talk about complementary flavors! And I would be remiss not to point out my long-time admiration for Zax’s Italian Sausage and Peppers. The linguine is nicely al dente and the onions and red and green peppers provide nice taste accents. But the salsicchia is the king of this dish: Great flavor and texture in that nuanced and simple Italian style.
You can also build a pretty decent pizza at Zax as well. I’ve always liked the caramelized onion, goat cheese, and Kalamata olives. Now that’s an intriguing and very first-bite intensive pie. And the crust has the right texture!
Zax has a diverse lunch menu as well with great sandwiches but I’ll leave that for you to discover. Suffice to say that this neat liitle eatery has been humming along now for quite a few years: and looks poised for quite a few more!