Where do you go when you absolutely positively have to have white bean cassoulet with your unagi and strawberry or when you just can’t go another day without truffled mac and cheese on the side of your aji sashimi with crispy bones? Why Mizu apparently.
On the long hilly road between Austin and the tiled roofs of the villas of Lakeway sits a shiny new outpost of the Las Vegas dining scene. Except for the vast quantities of limestone and a sweeping Texas view, it would be easy to believe that Mizu Prime Steak and Sushi was just off the Strip waiting to serve you “New American” and “Contemporary Japanese” before you were swept away by the spandexed wonder of Zumanity (or Celine Dion. You know who you are.)
With its 13 flat screen tvs, 2 pool tables, mammoth seating capacity, sleek bar, steakhouse meets sushi menu and family friendly proclaimations, Mizu wants to make sure they’re not leaving anybody out.
How could we not go?
We showed up to a packed house. Since it was a bit of a trek, we’d luckily made reservations. One of several hostesses navigated us back to the sushi bar where the sushi chefs effortlessly took no note of our arrival. As a consolation we jumped right in to studying the extensive menu.
The bar after we outlasted the less committed diners.
After a vigorous debate (including super sneaky spying on our neighbors’ food), girlie and I decided to save most of the steakhouse part of the menu for another time, plowing forth through the Asian side instead.
We started with some miso soup because I’m a sucker for it, but also because if a place can’t make decent miso soup there’s slim chance they’re doing much else right either. Mizu’s version wasn’t bad. Not a lot of depth of flavor but at least it had some nice bonito and wakame notes.
Faring a bit better was the seared crab cake. Basically a huge pan-fried ball of lump crab, it had so little binding that it fell apart at the touch of a fork. Not a bad thing. The smoked habanero red bell pepper coulis was heavy on the red bell and not so much smoked or habanero. I did really like the lightly pickled shiitakes in the tomato and mushroom salad- they definitely helped to brighten up the über-rich crab.
The next dish had me really excited- an inspired pairing of escolar and goose liver unfortunately labeled “what the foie?”. I thought that the two similarly buttery ingredients with their contrasting textures would make a neat riff on surf and turf especially with the verjus blanc to tie it together. It was close.
More land and sea action after the jump...
The proportions were off though, with the miniscule slivers of foie disappearing into the big slices of fish. It didn’t help that the whole thing needed salt. On the upside the escolar was partially and perfectly cooked by a little hot oil that the kitchen had drizzled over it. A little tweaking and this could be a stellar combo.
Next up, waygu beef nigiri. And…meh. The beef quality was fine and it was handled well. No complaints really, it was just forgettable. It was nice to find out though that Mizu uses real wasabi instead of that reconstituted crap. They fly it in from Japan pre-grated so it maybe loses a touch of the potency but it’s miles better than what you find in most restaurants.
Our next two dishes, the super spring sashimi and the apple jack, were surprisingly similar and equally confused. The two rolls were a jumble of so-so fish, cut haphazardly, and presented in pieces of oddly varying sizes.
The apple jack in particular was disappointing. I loved the idea of replacing the traditional seaweed wrap with thin ribbons of fuji apple but in practice the fruit was light on flavor and mealy in texture. Bizarrely, the roll also claimed to be dressed with truffle oil but if it was there, we couldn’t tell. Thankfully I think.
Wanting to compare the specialty rolls to something a bit more basic, we hit up the “classic” part of the menu for a California roll. It's not normally a favorite of either of ours, but I liked Mizu’s version with its generous portions of fresh crab and ripe creamy chunks of avocado. Staying true to theme though, the roll was on the sloppy side, with the rice applied arbitrarily and the varying sized pieces having trouble staying wrapped.
I was about ready to wind things down but was feeling like something on the sweet side. Tomago sprang to mind but it wasn’t on the menu. I think of tomago nigiri, much like miso soup, as a good trial dish. If you don’t make it in house or if you make a crappy version, it just doesn’t bode well.
On a whim, I asked our waitress and she told me that they just happened to have some whipped up in the back. Sweet!
Or maybe not.
Mizu makes their own but the pieces we got were kind of spongy and had pulled apart in places. The flavor was alright but the whole dish seemed an afterthought. I can see why it doesn’t make the regular menu.
If I lived in Lakeway I’d be happy to have Mizu in the area. They’re trying to do some interesting stuff and no other restaurant around offers the type of food they’re turning out.
You've definitely got to give it up for these cute sake coozies though.
They’ve only been open for a few months and even more recently they added a new chef. Their menu reads well (if a bit too all inclusive) but there's a decided disconnect between the tasty words on the page and the mixed-bag of food coming out of the kitchen.
Maybe they'll reconcile the two but my suspicion is that they’ll focus on quantity. Being in an area starved for fine dining they won’t have any trouble packing folks in. I hope I’m wrong but I don’t see us rushing back soon to find out.