Soleil

Soleil

Like Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1988 blockbuster Twins, The Oasis restaurant and its new sibling, Soleil, couldn’t be more different. The Oasis is DeVito: rumpled, rowdy, and a little tacky. Soleil is Schwarzenegger: calm, cool, and sophisticated. Yet they share the same stunning views over Lake Travis—and the same parent.

Restaurateur Beau Theriot opened The Oasis back in 1981 and expanded his family in November with the opening of Soleil. His new baby is more than just a pretty view: food, drink, ambiance and service will share center stage with its famous sunsets. As proof, Theriot brought in heavy-hitters like Houston chef Robert Del Grande of Café Annie to develop its Mediterranean-Italian menu and Austin darling Dick Clark Architecture to design its space. The results are impressive. The interior is so pretty I almost forgot to admire the views. The breezy "lake chic" Mediterranean décor features sun-washed wood, pale limestone, translucent azure lamps, and shimmery silver fabrics. I thought I’d sailed off to Portofino until the whimsical turquoise trophy heads directed me back to Texas.

The service reflects the scenery and is polished yet relaxed. Local chef George Thomas (Kenichi, Paggi House, Maiko) oversees the kitchen and executes Del Grande’s vision with promising, yet mixed, results. We started with an appetizer of plump shrimp and crab topped with Catalan-style guacamole and garnished with glistening white anchovies. Although tasty, the piquant guacamole contradicted the seafood’s fresh sweetness. A riff on traditional bruschetta was topped with sliced pears, prosciutto, Italian Taleggio cheese, arugula, and drizzled honey. Again, a deft touch would have prevented the honey from overwhelming the other flavors. Our pizza from Soleil’s stone oven was topped with fresh mozzarella, teardrop tomatoes, and fresh basil. The toppings were good, but the crust was bland and dry. Soleil’s pastas are house made and our linguine with clams had good texture, but the dish was practically flavorless, perhaps due to the omission of red chile flakes promised on the menu?

The Fresh Ground Steak Burger had potential but unfortunately arrived overcooked, yet the accompanying fries were delicious, hot and crispy. For dessert, the Tiramisu lacked the springy lightness of the traditional version. Although we found minor flaws in several dishes, I trust they’ll be quickly remedied as this young restaurant matures. The wine list makes up for any missteps in the kitchen. The selection is interesting and affordable, with wines starting at an astonishing $4 per glass. I enjoyed a refreshing glass of Schlumberger Pinot Blanc from Alsace, and my companion had a Texas Sipper, one of Soleil’s specialty drinks made of Tito’s Vodka, St. Germain Elderflower, and grapefruit and lime juices. Unlike its sibling neighbor that accommodates over 2,000 diners, Soleil hosts a more intimate 400, including patio seating and a casual raw bar. But comparing Soleil to The Oasis is like comparing DeVito to Schwarzenegger: it’s not really fair since each has its own place. But hopefully, the competition will spur them both on to greater heights. Sibling rivalry has its advantages.

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