First Look: Abstract Plating and French Technique on the Dessert Menu at Mettle, Austin
Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
Bridget Dunlap, the self proclaimed "Rainey Street Queen" and owner of a family of bars (Lustre Pearl, Clive Bar, Bar Ilegal etc.) recently branched out to East Austin and into restaurant arena. Her newest addition, Mettle, is a bistro with a twist that uses East Austin as the reference point.
Mettle's executive pastry chef Finney Walter was born in Lubbock, Texas. He graduated with a history degree but said he "didn't want to be a lawyer or professor". He has since cooked in top restaurants around the country, including the The Inn at Erlowest in Upstate New York and the 3 Michelin star Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley. He honed his French pastry making techniques in Paris.
Here, chef Walter throws his personal spin on classical French desserts. "I base the menu on flavor memories. Some of the desserts remind me of my childhood.... without it being too obvious or pedestrian," he described. For example, the "Birch" dessert looks like plated abstract art but the memories of a root beer float flood back when all the components are tasted together.
The vast flavor profile ranges from tropical flavors like mango, coconut, and lime, to fresh rose, and even Campari. Walter also incorporates unusual ingredients like togarashi (Japanese chili blend), epazote (a peppery Mexican herb) and white soy sauce as accents. He ties the contrasting ingredients together by playing with textures and temperatures, and according to him, "without trying to be too cute or avant garde".
Check out the slideshow to see Mettle's debut dessert menu.