Chavez: Chef Shawn Cirkiel Delights Austin, Again

There are several things I have come to expect when it comes to any establishment in which chef Shawn Cirkiel is involved. The place will be stylish and attractive, the food will be fantastic, and the service will be stellar. So, it was with these expectations that I eagerly visited his newest venture: chavez.

The restaurant's décor is beautiful without being aggressive, with clean lines and stylish details. The service was fantastic and it alone might be enough to bring me back, as our server really helped make the evening perfect. She picked our coursing menu on the fly and knew every detail of every dish served, and each course she brought to us was fantastic.

We started with the baby back ribs and the empanadas, the latter of which turned out to be a fabulous vegetarian offering. Fried masa dough is stuffed with black beans and Oaxaca cheese, served with a delicious salsa verde. As for the baby back ribs, I still dream of them. They were perfectly cooked; the meat fell right off the bone. Normally, I'm not a huge fan of sweet ribs, but the agave glaze was sweet without being cloying. The ribs were a little sticky from the glaze, but not to such a degree as I've encountered before, where the ribs are bathed in clinging syrup. No, these were near perfect.

Next, we ordered one of the best fruit salads I have ever had. I think what sent it over the top for me was its simplicity. It was just mango, jicama, lime juice, and a little chili powder. It was sweet, tangy, a little spicy, and just playful enough to leave a smile on my face.

For our entrées, we were served blade steak al pastor and herb crusted mahi mahi. The blade steak was hands down one of the best pieces of pork I have ever had the privilege of enjoying. It was accompanied by roasted radishes, tomatoes, and onions and will probably be my go-to dish at this eatery. The mahi mahi was one of the most perfectly prepared pieces of fish I have had; whenever I try cooking it myself I am never able to achieve this kind of results. It was served with a nice salsa negra, which reminded me of a mole poblano sauce, along with turnips, pineapple, and scallion. To finish things off, my daughter and I split the cafe con leche cake. It was a plated with cajeta, chocolate espresso sauce, cocoa nib ice cream, and a chocolate crumble.

I had such a delicious experience that I wanted to personally thank everyone at chavez, from chef Cirkiel to our server, Desirea, as their craftsmanship and service not only met, but surpassed my elevated expectations.