The entry to Lutie's Garden Restaurant, the newest arrival at the Commodore Perry Estate in Austin (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
Desserts may be the star of the show at Lutie's Garden Restaurant. (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
Garden hand rolls with cucumber dip. (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
Royal red shrimp. (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
Lutie's warm, sumptuous interiors designed by Ken Fulk. (Photo by Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection)
“I would think I were in Los Angeles,” said my husband, “except for that I can see the HEB grocery store over the wall.”
Seated across from him on opening night of Lutie’s Garden Restaurant at the Commodore Perry Estate, Auberge Resorts Collection, all I could see was a glorious Austin sunset, rose gardens and rolling lawns, and the estate pool in the distance, surrounded by yellow-and-white striped umbrellas. I understood what he was saying — the space, designed to sumptuous, layered perfection by Ken Fulk, was more glamorous than felt normal in Austin, and the man at the table next to us was wearing a slim suit with Comme de Garçon Converse sneakers and a wool beanie.
Lutie’s, named after estate matriarch Nannie Lewette “Lutie” Perry, features ingredient-forward forward fare prepared with an elevated approach as influenced by husband-and-wife “power chef” team Bradley Nicholson and Susana Querejazu’s combined experiences cooking in acclaimed restaurants around the world. This translates to a menu full of local treasures, like the grand aioli, a vegetarian platter with vegetables sourced from Steelbow Farms; grilled and marinated beets; sunchoke falafel (decorated with edible flowers); and a showstopping whole, roasted fish.
“I feel like I’m in heaven,” I sighed. “Besides, L.A. has all the helicopters.”
My husband laughed. All we could hear at Lutie’s was our fellow diners’ laughter and Vampire Weekend tunes playing softly over the sound system. In our busy lives in our ever-busier city, spending time on the lovely porch at Lutie’s was a treat indeed. I exhaled, letting a rare sense of calm wash over me.
And then, even dreamier, our waiter arrived with our warm bread — two buns reminiscent of English muffins, Barton Springs Mill milk grits folded in — and our drinks. Lutie’s has a stellar wine menu featuring many natural wines, but my husband chose the “Yes, Ma’am” cocktail, with brown butter washed pecan rye, cognac, vermouth, and black pepper.
“Is it amazing?” I asked, sipping a ginger concoction.
“Yes, ma’am!” he said.
Dessert may be the star of the show — I was glad we’d saved room. Querejazu is known particularly for her pastry expertise, formerly at Odd Duck and Barley Swine, and has recently completed a stage at Le Meurice in Paris.
The Bees Wax Crème Caramel with burnt honey was wonderful, but the Kouign Amann Ice Cream was unlike anything I’d tried before, featuring toasted bits of the buttery, crispy pastry mixed with vanilla ice cream. The dessert was accompanied by a tiny kouign amman (I’d never heard of the pastry — pronounced queen a-mahn — before, but am now obsessed) and topped with warm caramel sauce at the table.
“This is insane,” said my husband, who had insisted he was not in a dessert mood just three minutes before.
Dinner at Lutie’s Garden Restaurant felt to me like traveling to a foreign country without needing a passport or an N95 mask: a surprising, delightful escape, especially wonderful in these confusing days. I was glad I had reserved a room at the resort. I adore my children and puppy, but I wasn’t ready to go home just yet.