First look

What to know about Hestia, downtown Austin's hottest new restaurant

What to know about Hestia, downtown Austin's hottest new restaurant

Hestia smoked meat beef
Hestia's plates, like dry-aged Wagyu ribeye, are all cooked over open flame. Photo by Chelsea Francis
Hestia bar kalimotxo patio
Hestia's open flame concept continues outside, where guests are greeted by fire pits on the patio. Photo by Chelsea Francis
Hestia bar kalimotxo
Kalimotxo, the restaurant bar, is influenced by Japanese design. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia parker house rolls
Hestia's Parker House rolls turn tradition on its head. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia dining room table
Leather upholstery and brass lighting fixtures add a cosmopolitan feel. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia dining room table
Cultery and the evening's menu are tucked away in hidden drawers.  Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia dining room wine rack
Dark wine racks envelope the dining room. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia kevin fink servers service prep
Chef Kevin Fink meets with his staff before service to discuss the evening's dishes. Photo by Chelsea Francis
Hestia snack bits
The selection of tiny botes include a potato tart, raw oyster, uni with grilled sticky rice, and a scallop herb sandie. Photo by Chelsea Francis
Hestia
Small, one-bite snacks are a prelude to the more substantial offerings. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia dining room table
The dining room is sleek and modern. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia crab dish
A king crab dish features raw milk smoked butter. Photo by Chelsea Francis
hestia matcha dish
The towering kakigori is a highlight of the dessert menu. Photo by Chelsea Francis
Hestia smoked meat beef
Hestia bar kalimotxo patio
Hestia bar kalimotxo
hestia parker house rolls
hestia dining room table
hestia dining room table
hestia dining room wine rack
hestia kevin fink servers service prep
Hestia snack bits
Hestia
hestia dining room table
hestia crab dish
hestia matcha dish

Mourning the death of fine dining has become such an annual media fixation there is little wonder left for the Lazarus-like miracle of its frequent rebirth. In Austin, however, a brand-new restaurant might finally seal that tomb for good. 

With a lively clamor bleeding in from lobby bar Kalimotxo and flatware easily replenished from hidden drawers, Hestia is full of the sort of casual touches that make traditionalists gasp. It’s also finer dining than most of the restaurants stamped with that term.

Opened December 7 at 607 W. Third St., Ste. 105, Hestia continues the experimentation chefs Kevin Fink and Tavel Bristol-Joseph began at Rainey Street’s Emmer & Rye. The kitchen contains no gas or electric heat sources, instead relying on the open flame. In another innovation, the restaurant splits serving duties between a tag team of front-of-house and back-of-house staff.

Conventional servers make sure guests get settled in, taking the initial order for introductory bites and drinks and generally ensuring that the experience is free of hiccups. Chefs then hustle between stove and table, explaining the menu and running selections to guests.

That unique model gives the meal something the ossified world of fine dining often lacks — charm. Eschewing mannered decorum for true enthusiasm, the chefs bring the full sensory experience to the table in a way that tuxedoed waitstaff rarely does.

Fink’s savory menu demands that energy. Almost every dish offers surprise, from grilled potatoes shaved into tagliatelle-style ribbons to the broccoli plate that purees the flowers into painterly dots and saves the stalks for an unexpected foundation. Even Parker House rolls, a Boston hotel staple lionized by legendary cookbook author Fannie Farmer, delivers something unexpected in its glacier of butter made with mascarpone cheese.

Bristol-Joseph follows suit with stunning desserts that decenter Paris as the capital of pastry arts. Hestia's biggest hit will likely be the kakigori, a photogenic tower of matcha-powdered shaved ice that delightfully tumbles onto the table. Less showy, but as intriguingly flavored, is a roll of sweet potato cake dotted with wild flowers, plated like something the characters of Midsommar would have enjoyed had the movie taken a less disturbing turn.

No such tension exists in Baldridge Architects' interior. Though the initial renderings presented Hestia as a sort of goth cousin to Emmer, the space is cosmopolitan and sleek. An inky stain does frame the kitchen cut-out, making it glow like a black box stage.

Clanging pans and campfire smells may not have been what Auguste Escoffier had in mind when he modernized haute cuisine, but the quality of 21st century dining shouldn’t be judged by the standards of its predecessor. Blazing Hestia is a viking funeral to the idea that dining out should be about anything other than pleasure.