Trace at the W

Trace at the W

"Keep Austin Sexy" should be the slogan for downtown’s new W Hotel. While everyone else is trying to Keep Austin Weird, the W is taking different approach: it oozes confident sensuality. And Austin’s chic set has taken note, grateful to finally have a place to dress up and mingle in the hotel’s labyrinth of sultry cocktail lounges.

And when the sexy people get hungry, they head to the W’s restaurant, Trace. Although modest in size, Trace is built for show. Diners are seated side-by-side in plush silver banquettes, which encourages surveying the scene as much as the menu. Décor is retro-chic, with supple white leather chairs and lots of mirrors and cool lighting. When the weather’s nice, a patio spills onto the sidewalk, perfect for people-watching patrons of Second Street and the new ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

Serving three meals a day, Trace has a decidedly different vibe at lunch than at dinner. At lunch, it’s a downright respectable choice for a business meal. But at dinner, lights dim and temperatures rise to create a sexy scene.

Trace’s name reflects its commitment to serving local and sustainable food that can be traced back to its natural origin – and the menu is chockfull of Central Texas produce, artisan cheeses and heritage meats. Because of its seasonality, the menu changes frequently.

At lunch on its sunny patio, I lustily lapped up the Carrot Ginger Soup, a refreshing cold version bursting with bright, sweet carrot flavor and drizzled with a hint of ginger oil. The Hot Smoked Salmon Salad was almost too pretty to eat, its delicious and colorful medley of endive, mache, satsuma orange and avocado tossed in a light citrus dressing and topped with warm in-house smoked salmon. Less successful was the Sandwich Board, a sampler of three sandwiches filled with creative ingredients, but each suffering from too much or not enough seasoning. Tasty accompanying French Fries salvaged the dish.

At dinner, the Garden Salad was an unusual but tasty toss of local produce sprinkled with toasted rye. A comforting bowl of creamy polenta was topped with wild mushrooms and a poached farm egg. The Seared Sea Trout was outstanding — sparkling fresh fish served with sweet potatoes and spaghetti squash. The only misstep was a dense pecan pie for dessert.

The wine list was uncharacteristically pedestrian, but I managed to uncover a couple of interesting treats, like a glass of Olivier Leflaive Bourgogne Blanc Les Setilles and a bottle of M. Chapoutier Cotes Du Rhone Belleruche Blanc.

Service at Trace was mostly excellent. On two of my three visits, servers patiently explained menu items, happily split dishes for sharing and cheerfully coddled us through a three-hour lunch. On only one visit was our service just average.

The overall experience at Trace is both seductive and satisfying. So can Austin be both sexy AND weird without selling its soul? At the W Hotel it can.
 

Album

Trace at the W
Trace at the W
Trace at the W