The latest project from budding Peached Tortilla magnate Eric Silverstein, Bar Peached isn’t really a bar. Sure, there is a varied cocktail program (a boozy one at that) and the poppy atmosphere lends itself to bar stool conviviality. But guests arriving on opening day, January 8, won’t find lingering pools of people arguing over who will be buying the next round of shots.
Instead, think of the 1315 W. Sixth St. concept as an evolution of an idea first brought to life in 2010 with a single food truck. The sit-down restaurant, to borrow Silverstein’s invented word, "peachifies" the former home of Winflo Osteria, showcasing the confidence the restaurateur has in his brand.
Fans of the Peached projects will immediately spot some familiar flourishes. The design team of Matthew Parker (a 2014 James Beard nominee for his work on Seattle’s Westward), architect Kevin Stewart of Design Hound, and design-builder Michael Dickson smartly peppered the space with leitmotifs from the original Burnet Road brick-and-mortar, like vintage-style glass pendants, tufted barstools, and a portrait of Lady Bird Johnson watching over the dining room from the fireplace.
That’s not to say that Bar Peached doesn’t have a distinct identity. The bones of the historic bungalow provide a homier setting than the more minimalist Peached Tortilla, and playful touches like a cactus print wallpaper and woozy paintings from local artist Phoebe Joynt provide personality.
The food strikes the same balance between new and old. Executive chef Stephani O’Conner follows the template set by Peached Tortilla by offering takes on that restaurant’s signature dishes along with fresh ideas. It’s billed as Southern-Asian fusion, and the menu does make some connections in ingredients like peanuts and catfish, but don’t expect riffs on Hoppin’ John or sweet potato pie. There is a pronounced Texas influence, but it's up to diners to decide whether the Lone Star State counts as the South.
It is, however, decidedly fusion. The “snacky plates” section includes appetizers like cheese corn — a dish both reminiscent of creamed corn and esquites with a sprinkle of plum powder and chili crab toast — a melding of Singaporean chili crab with the dim sum pleasures of shrimp toast. Elsewhere, nuoc cham cuts the bitterness of seared broccolini, and wafu (a dressing made with tosazu, a fermented vinegar) gussies up an arugula salad.
The mapo bolgonese is perhaps the most conceptual offering. Italian only in form, the plate tops a tangle of wheat chow fun noodles with five spice pork and a whip of tofu, keeping the flavors of the traditional Sichuan favorite intact. It comes with a warning about its spice levels, perhaps a wise one, but the numbing camphor of the peppercorns hardly overwhelms.
Tacos are still the restaurant's bread and butter, taking up a third of the menu’s real estate. Two of the Peached Tortillas standbys return — dry-rubbed brisket with apple slaw and roasted peach barbecue sauce and a take on Vietnamese banh mi with braised pork belly, pickled daikon, and sriracha mayo — but the list makes room for confit duck “foldies” with mozzarella and tamarind hoisin and spiced cauliflower wrapped in a flour tortilla.
The section also features the eateries two most successful dishes. The shrimp flautas may seem gimmicky, but the filling nails the texture and taste of Chinese har gow dumplings, giving them a surprising crispy shell. The large format fried fish (served with tortillas adorably housed in a steamer basket) doesn’t achieve such alchemy, but the crispness of the panko crusted catfish and the vibrant cilantro chimichurri speak for themselves.
Such experimentation gives license to beverage director Kevin Kok to amp up the pan-Asian flavors in his bar program. The Margarita de Peached from Burnet Road reappears on tap, but there are several new sippers to try. A New Chapter indeed turns the page on tiki by marrying a classic daiquiri with pineapple and roasted tomato for an effect somewhere near a fruity michelada. The Morelos gets weird too with fermented tamarind adding zing to mezcal. Drinkers should opt for a habanero salt rim to cut the sweet.
But undoubtedly the brightest star of Bar’s boozy offerings is still yet to come. Bingsu, a Korean shaved ice dessert loaded here with choices of birthday cake, matcha, and strawberry cheesecake, will eventually come with suggested high-octane spirits pairings. Ever the savvy marketer, Silverstein likely knows that the treats will soon be inescapable on Austin Instagram feeds.