Fabrik’s Upscale Vegan Tasting Room Invites Austinites in for a Delightful Dining Experience
New elevated restaurant offers 5-course or 7-course tasting menus that showcase the diversity of plant-based cuisine
Austin restaurants offer a vast variety of delicious dishes that cater to vegan diets, from the famed queso at Kerbey Lane Cafe to the quintessential health-conscious macrobiotic plates at Casa de Luz, as well as many other casual, comforting choices. However, Austin has lacked an upscale, elevated, adventurous, 100-percent plant-based dining room — until now.
Fabrik, an elegant all-vegan tasting room, has recently opened in Austin’s thriving East Side that provides a sophisticated setting and seasonally curated menus to appeal to vegans and omnivores alike. Led by Executive Chef-Owner Je Wheeler and Co-Owner Silas Wallerstein, Fabrik highlights the diversity of plant-based cuisine with an innovative, fully plant-based menu inspired by Japanese, Nordic and Italian flavors. Chef Wheeler’s creative culinary program features the highest-quality ingredients sourced from local farms and vendors as well as Fabrik’s own hydroponic gardens.
The Tribeza team was pleased to be included among some of Fabrik’s first guests to sample Chef Wheeler’s exceptional menu on the restaurant’s opening night. The delectable experience was shared by two Tribeza staffers with differing diet preferences — one longtime vegan and one connoisseur of all cuisines. Both were captivated upon first bite.
An intimate and welcoming experience
Upon walking into the tasteful yet minimalist 16-seat dining room, we were welcomed warmly by both Wheeler and Wallerstein, as if entering a friend’s home for an engaging dinner party. The small space features a sleek style with private tables, yet the atmosphere easily lends itself to the opportunity for conversation among guests. With such unique, flavorful, and beautiful bites delivered with each course, there was certainly the urge to chat freely with diners at neighboring tables about the savory surprises, almost with an “ooh, ahh” chatter.
Artful vegan cuisine
We were treated to artfully created, summery tastes featuring Chef Wheeler’s scratch-made pastas, tofu, vegan butters, cheeses and breads. The small bites started with a rich confit potato with smoked crème fraîche and wakame caviar as well as a beet tartelette with beetroot cream and almond cheese. The pillowy house made focaccia was paired with a most delicious romanesco along with shitake butter. Our favorite standout on the menu was a plate featuring yakatori oyster mushrooms on a sweet brioche toast. We also loved the comforting pasta course that included hand-shaped parsnip cappelletti with miso butter, caramelized yeast and Szechwan. Dessert bites were just as decadent, including a sour cherry cheesecake with poached cherries and tonka bean panna cotta, followed by a coffee maple ice cream to conclude the meal.
A conversation with Chef Wheeler
The lovely atmosphere along with such a truly exceptional dining experience kept us lingering a bit longer than expected, but this gave us the opportunity to chat with Wheeler and Wallerstein a bit more about their motivation and inspiration to bring such a tastefully refined vegan dining room to Austin.
Tribeza team: With such an impressive background of international restaurant experiences in Berlin, Copenhagen, London, etc., what was the inspiration to bring Fabrik to Austin?
Chef Wheeler: Austin has been something of a home base for me since 2012 when my parents moved down here for a few years. That was during the phase of my life when I was traveling full time, so I’d always spend time here between trips or when passing through. I developed so much fondness for Austin — it just has this inviting quality and community feeling that always seems to draw me back in. After many stints of living here for parts of the year, Silas and I officially planted roots here at the beginning of 2020.
Tribeza team: We understand that a commitment to sustainability is very important to you. Can you share a little insight about what this means at Fabrik?
Chef Wheeler: We’re of the belief that small changes can accrue into something substantial. While the greatest burden should be placed on corporations and policymakers and not the consumers, we do still believe that with purchasing power and influence, you can see the chain that begins to form with more conscious decision-making. Our patrons dine with us because they are interested and curious about plant-based, sustainable dining. That support allows us to prioritize sourcing high-quality ingredients from local producers as much as possible, those producers are treating their product with care and protecting the soil by sourcing organic fertilizers – the chain goes on, and I think that’s a powerful means to advance the narrative of sustainability from the ground up. We are appreciative to have access to an amazing network of growers and producers here in Austin, and I think the more we collaborate and support one another, the more we can continue to collectively steer towards more conscious production and consumption overall.
Tribeza team: You note that you utilize as much of each ingredient as possible as a low-waste chef. Is this rather unique for the restaurant industry today? How does this effect your approach towards the menu?
Chef Wheeler: I have personally learned many waste reduction techniques through plant-based kitchens I’ve worked in, or through recommendations from fellow impassioned low-waste chefs. While it may not be a priority in most kitchens, I think it’s most prevalent amongst chefs who have a deep reverence for the products they’re working with, as well as an understanding of from where they are sourced and how long they take to grow. If you’ve ever grown any vegetables, you can really appreciate how precious the product is in a sense. For me, that might mean using every part of the ingredient within the dish itself, toasting unused bread to make shelf-stable bread crumbs, dehydrating parsnip skins to use in a broth or sauce base, or pickling beet greens that might show up on a later menu or be enjoyed at family meal. There are so many creative ways to make use of these commonly discarded ingredients that still have a lot of nutrition and flavor to offer through dehydration, fermentation, or creative culinary techniques.
Tribeza team: Finally, what was the inspiration behind the style of this space to pair with the curated menu?
Chef Wheeler: Fabrik lands somewhere between fine dining and mom-and-pop restaurant. Our cuisine seeks to be elevated and well-considered for a tasting experience that aligns with a fine dining concept, but in practice we wanted the environment and the service to feel more warm and inviting. As a micro restaurant space with only sixteen seats, we were inspired by omakase-type dining but wanted to afford patrons private seating. The atmosphere is inspired by Japanese and Scandinavian design with a bit of an eclectic twist. We accomplished this by utilizing materials such as burnt oak, linen, clay tiles, blackened patina metal, curved slatted wood, and concrete.
When we finally wrapped up our conversation with Wheeler and Wallerstein, we left Fabrik feeling a warm sense of community spirit and a connection to our newly-formed friends. Much like the ethos of Austin, Fabrik is a beautiful mix of comfort, creativity, style and heart. Absolutely a special space for vegans, it is also a wonderful addition to Austin’s varied dining scene for all culinary adventurers.
Tasting windows are offered at 6 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. with the 6 p.m. seating providing a 5-course menu for $70, and the 8:30 p.m. seating offering a 7-course menu for $85. For menu details and reservations visit www.fabrikatx.com.