Putting Down Roots
Pioneering new restaurant brings an all-plant menu to Austin's fine dining scene
Even though committing to a fully vegan diet is a serious endeavor, the lifestyle's top food destinations are overwhelmingly casual — in Austin, anyway. A vegan food truck and deli paradise, the city is also used to some high-quality vegan dishes in even the most unexpected places. But oh, how the (dining) tables have turned.
Fabrik, a fine dining concept that serves only plant-based products, is making a unique effort among Austin restaurants by bringing the two worlds together with total commitment. There's no super-ethical workarounds; It's all plants. Even more surprising, it'll open in East Austin (1701 E. Martin Luther King Blvd.), with a soft opening on August 3 and full, public service starting August 10.
The inspirations aren't as obvious as India and Ethiopia, either. Fabrik pulls its flavors from Japanese, Nordic, and Italian cuisine; three cultures known for carefully treated vegetables, but also very culturally significant meats and fish.
The former two inspirations supply the minimalist interior design executed by co-owner Silas Wallerstein, while the third likely ties into the restaurant's interest in comfort food. (Executive chef-owner Je Wheeler also has some experience in Italian food thanks to her past work at Austin's Juniper.)
Using these flavor profiles as guides, the seasonal menu follows the rhythms set by natural suppliers as well as the restaurant's own "hydroponic gardens, foraged finds, and artisanal imports," according to a release.
The sustainability goes beyond the plant-based choices, including waste-minimizing techniques like turning cooking scraps into their own menu items or repurposing them for later dishes. Handmade items will include "pasta, bread, tofu, vegan cheeses, infused oils, vinegars, and more."
Starting with the summer menu, three dishes make the influence of the listed inspiration cuisines abundantly clear: "parsnip cappelletti with miso butter, caramelized yeast, and Szechwan; confit potato with smoked crème fraîche and wakame caviar; and sour cherry cheesecake with poached cherries and tonka bean panna cotta."
“Our vision for Fabrik was a crossover of fine dining with the warmth of a mom-and-pop restaurant," said Wheeler in the release. "We are independently owned and operated, and have really put love into every detail."
She continued, "Our goal is to channel our passion for plant-based cuisine and our sustainable ethos into a dining experience that can excite not just those who are plant-based, but also those who are interested in more sustainable dining or are looking to enjoy a unique fine dining experience in an intimate space."
If "mom-and-pop calls" to mind watching a parent cook from the table, diners may be able to mentally reframe two common practices in fine dining: the tiny room only invites 16 guests in two seatings per night, and Chef Wheeler will be present throughout, working in the attached kitchen.
The plant-based menu will be complimented with vegan, biodynamic, and organic wine pairings, as well as saké and nonalcoholic drinks. These, too, will shift to better complement the seasonal ingredients.
More information about Fabrik, including links to reserve when the restaurant is ready, is available at fabrikatx.com.