Barley Swine (Austin)

Texas Monthly was spot-on: Barley Swine is none other than a "culinary odyssey." The low-key, dimly lit room hosts a full house on a nightly basis, providing thirteen shared courses for diners ranging from curious, casual hipsters to sophisticated wine connoisseurs. It's no wonder diners from every background, (even GQ two years ago) find the restaurant a winner. Oh, and their Chef was just nominated as a James Beard finalist. Pretty impressive!

red snapper, strawberry, black truffle
In light of the recent GQ article on the recent trend of "egotarian" cuisine (with a shout out to Trois Mec), I could not help but recognize writer Alan Richman's blunt observation during my own dining experience, that "almost every aspect of this new style of cooking, from its conceptualization to its preparation to its presentation, is about coddling the chef, not the customer. The job of the customer is to eat what's placed before him, and then applaud."
Obviously, I made a reservation at Barley Swine to taste and test the magical creations of Bryce Gilmore, who portrayed pure focus and raw talent from behind the bar at which I sat and admired for three hours. And, yes, I applauded. Barley Swine is surely not for everyone, but I arrived expecting an adventure...and I received one. If you're not looking for that type of dining experience, then no need to venture South. Bari and I will never forget the highlights of this thirteen-course meal together, however!
soft egg, sweet potato, bluefoot mushroom
The soy-infused soft egg (two above) was brilliant, creating a marbelized surface with a soy sauce yolk that held together a crispy sweet potato nest. Its whimsical presentation was the best I had seen all night. I also was surprisingly a huge fan of the slightly sweet braised rabbit with hay mousse and turnips. The red snapper crudo third course (first photo) remained my absolute favorite through the remainder of the evening.
biscuit, orange marmalade, bacon
Besides the pricey pre-fixe figure (which jumped $10 pp since last month), the only setback I identified was the menu's lack of fluidity. My tastebuds seemed confused when jumping from a Southern-style biscuit and bacon plate to a Greek-style lamb with yogurt and then an Asian-style duck and broccoli with a miso soup "drink" on the side. All delicious, but I wish the menu's order had told a true story beyond Chef's random selection of local ingredients. Despite the hefty bill (with a big tip for Lance, the most fantastic waiter/bartender I've had in months), I left feeling amused and impressed.
It was worth it.

cobia, dashi, turnip