- Matthew Odam American-Statesman Staff
Austin longs for more quality sandwich shops, so the opening of La Matta in East Austin should come as welcome news to sandwich lovers (present company included). New Waterloo, the team behind Sway, La Condesa, the South Congress Hotel and more, opened the Italian sandwich shop and cafe at 501 Comal St. The shop is helmed by Italian-raised executive chef Erind Halilaj and will be joined next year by full-fledged Italian restaurant Il Brutto in the Arnold, a mixed-use building that will eventually be home to residents and businesses such as C3 Presents, Condé Nast and Front Gate Tickets.
“My goal with La Matta is to bring authentic Italian sandwiches to Austin. Authentic meaning there is no interpretation — this is what you would eat in Italy, presented in exactly the same way,” said Halilaj, who joined New Waterloo after serving as executive chef at Obica Mozzarella Bar in New York.
La Matta is open daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Komé Sushi Kitchen spent the past six years luring diners to its low-slung space on Airport Boulevard with a slew of izakaya dishes and sushi. Now, the restaurant opened by husband-and-wife team Kayo and Také Asazu in 2011 has a bigger, brighter space to welcome guests.
The restaurant moved to its new space at 5301 Airport Blvd. at the end of last month. While the menu looks much the same as the original, Kome, which also operates Daruma Ramen downtown, now serves three varieties of ramen, udon and a small roster of Japanese whiskeys.
The larger space means more seating as well as a bigger area for waiting guests, who previously had to cram into an entryway or wait outside at the old location. Early next year, the owners will expand their demi-empire to include Ni-Kome, a sushi and ramen spot at the food hall Fareground downtown at Second Street and Congress Avenue.
Chef James Dumapit cut his teeth as a member of the Hai Hospitality empire, moving his way from stage to sushi chef at chef Tyson Cole’s Uchi and eventually serving as executive sous chef at Uchiko. Following his stints at those two lauded spots, he opened modern Chinese restaurant Old Thousand as co-executive chef, but he is leaving that East Austin establishment to return to where it all began for him.
Hai announced last week that Dumapit will serve as the chef de cuisine at Loro, the Japanese smokehouse on South Lamar which recently announced that Aaron Franklin had joined on as partner with Cole and company.
“James Dumapit is one of the most talented chefs to come up through the Hai ranks, and I am so thrilled to have him back in the fold on this project,” Cole said. “I can’t wait to see what inspiration and creativity he brings to the menu and to what both Aaron and I want to bring to Loro.”
Loro is set to open in early 2018 at 2115 S. Lamar Blvd.
Bakery, cafe and flower shop Walton’s Fancy & Staple , a longtime Market District favorite, is now open after dark. After eight years of meeting the needs of breakfast and lunch patrons, the charming spot at 609 W. Sixth St. opened by actress Sandra Bullock now features a bistro dinner menu three nights a week — Thursday through Saturday — that includes hanger steak au poivre with field greens, avocado toast with chèvre and a soft boiled farm egg, a hamburger with tender belly bacon and Longhorn cheddar, and more.
Austin has better barbecue than Houston. At least that’s one way to extrapolate the small sample size of data collected at the recent HOU-ATX BBQ Throwdown at the Saint Arnold Brewing Co. in Houston. A panel of judges gave a pair of first place ribbons to co-champions LeRoy & Lewis of Austin and Brotherton’s Black Iron Barbecue of Pflugerville. And the judges weren’t the only ones impressed by LeRoy & Lewis, the barbecue truck helmed by former Freedmen’s pitmaster Evan LeRoy, as the team also took home the People’s Choice Award.
Both of the Central Texas spots brought a bit of Asian flare to the proceedings. LeRoy & Lewis rocked a bacon rib with brisket fried rice, kimchi and fish caramel; Brotherton used smoked confit beef pate, Korean style brisket and pulled pork and kimchi for a tricked-out play on a banh mi, according to one attendee.
The two blue ribbon winners topped a field that included Beaver’s, the Brisket House, El Burro & the Bull, the Pit Room, Tin Roof BBQ, 2016 Throwdown winner Killen’s BBQ, Ellis Brothers BBQ, and Gatlin’s BBQ of Houston and Austin-area joints Micklethwait Craft Meats and Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ.
Looks like there’s a nice rivalry heating up between Texas’ top two barbecue cities.