May 2015 Dining Pick
by Karen Spezia
This stylish east Austin eatery keeps diners coming back for more.
The hits just keep on coming for East Austin’s white-hot food scene. The latest smash: Launderette, a terrific new project from chefs Rene Ortiz and Laura Sawicki, formerly of La Condesa and Sway. This dynamic duo has struck out on their own with dazzling results.
Located in a renovated Kleen Wash, Launderette is stylish, playful, and delicious to boot. The Mediterranean-influenced menu is built for sharing, and its super-fresh choices change frequently with the seasons. One night, we snapped up the last order of razor clams, drizzled with garlic aioli, rosemary olive oil and salsa verde. We devoured one of Launderette’s toast offerings, opting for focaccia topped with soft-cooked egg, gooey taleggio cheese, asparagus, and truffle vinaigrette. It was decadent and rich.
Next we dug into a bubbling crock of cauliflower gratin, oozing with creamy gruyere and dusted with garlic sourdough breadcrumbs. Silky chicken liver pate came with sweet huckleberry preserves and adorable mini brioche toasts. The indulgent burger should be illegal: a fresh grind of beef, flank steak, and bacon (that’s right!) stacked with American cheese, spicy "special sauce", and pickled veggies on a homemade challah bun. Less successful was a shaved zucchini salad that was overwrought with ingredients and arrived overdressed and soggy.
Sawicki is one of the best pastry chefs around, so don’t miss her desserts. The chocolate ganache was brilliant, dotted with marshmallow, candied pear and rye ice cream crumbles. And the birthday cake ice cream sandwich seems to already be a signature dish: confetti ice cream wedged between chewy blonde brownies. A childhood treat made for grown-ups. Yum.
Numerous dishes caught our eye but, sadly, we didn’t have room: potato chips with pimento cheese dip, fried oysters, charred octopus, Brussels sprouts with pickled apples, homemade garganelli pasta, lamb shoulder, et al. Fortunately, our excellent server, Ashley, helped us navigate all the tempting options — and the rest of Launderette’s seasoned staff was equally attentive and gracious.
The drink menu has something for everyone. Try the refreshing Bird of Paradise cocktail mixed with tequila, grapefruit, and lime. Adami prosecco was served in a nostalgic champagne coupe and our glass of Trimbach Riesling complemented every dish. Most bottles hover in the reasonable $40-50 range, plus there are dozens of beer varieties.
Did I mention the place looks great? Architects Clayton & Little and designer/partner Margaret Vera have successfully retained much of the ex-laundromat’s groovy ‘60s vibe, blending Austin modern with vintage charm. There’s a long, welcoming bar spotlighted by retro starburst lamps. Teal painted floors contrast simple white walls adored with cool art. Votives illuminate wooden tables lined with banquette benches and comfy barrel chairs. There’s also sidewalk and patio seating for al fresco feasting. Background tunes set the mood and began with old school jams that edged into current, louder beats as the night progressed and as the crowds kept coming. Helmed by some of Austin’s most talented and likable culinary stars, Launderette isn’t just popular, it’s a solid gold hit.
p: (512) 382-1599