A Goan-inspired menu of bright and complex dishes shines in an exotic yet homey East Austin space
By Karen O. Spezia
Photographs by Holly Cowart
When it comes to food, I think I’m pretty smart. But I found myself Googling almost everything about Vixen’s Wedding, starting with its quirky name. And it’s unfamiliar Goan cuisine. And its uncharted location in a new hotel. Yet I sensed that once I unraveled its mysteries, I’d like the place, mostly because it shares a lineage with Lenoir. And I love Lenoir.
But first, I had to find the answers to the riddles. I discovered that the name, Vixen’s Wedding, is a Portuguese phrase describing a rainbow-producing sunshower, a unique and joyful phenomenon reflected in the restaurant’s food, which is inspired by Goa, a state on the southwestern coast of India and a former Portuguese colony. And the restaurant’s location, in the new boutique Arrive East Austin Hotel, wraps around a bustling corner of East 6th and Chicon, and thankfully has valet parking for those who don’t arrive via scooter.
So if it all sounds pretty funky and fun, it is. Open since July, Vixen’s Wedding has truly created something unique in a town where carving a niche has become more and more challenging. And if anyone’s up to the task, it’s Vixen’s chef/partners and culinary super-couple, Todd Duplechan and Jessica Maher. Their beloved Lenoir continues to garner raves after eight solid years. For their second act, they’ve continued to champion local and sustainable foods, but this time taking inspiration from the Indian coast. Duplechan became enamored with Goan cuisine during one of his early cooking gigs up in New York and eventually travelled the region to explore its food stalls and spice farms first-hand.
Goan food is a cultural mash-up of flavors that are bright and flavorful and complex. The chili pepper is perhaps its most predominant ingredient, resulting in fiery, bold flavors that Duplechan thought would translate well to Texan palates. Being on the coast, the Gaon diet is seafood centric, although meat and fowl make appearances, too. At Vixen’s Wedding, you can sample them all. For starters, the fresh fish ceviche is a dazzling combination of flavors and textures: sweet and sour; silky and crunchy. The pillowy rice cake Idli buns are stuffed with pork and served with a zingy chutney. And don’t miss the Smoky Beet Dosa, an outstanding beet trifecta that tastes and looks way better than it sounds: a beet-infused dosa pancake, accompanied by meaty smoked beets, beet marinated garnish, and dollops of lip-smacking curry aioli. Even the homemade breads are special, showcasing a rotating selection of seasonal dough like paratha flatbreads, poee wheat buns, and sourdough tinged with tumeric.
Entrees include fresh fish crusted with crispy flattened rice poha and served with charred squash and a zip of chilis. There’s also Pork Ribs Vindaloo, coated in subtle, complex spices and served with an ethereal coconut rice. If you’re dining with friends, go big with one of the large format entrees, like the whole roasted chicken, slathered in piquant peri-peri sauce and brought to the table on a platter with a knife for DIY carving. If you’ve got room for dessert, enjoy a decadent slice of moist Coconut Milk Cake served a la mode with turmeric ice cream.
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Cocktails are tasty and clever, with names like Goan Places, a refreshing and aromatic concoction of white rum, lime, pineapple, and coconut water. The wine and beer list includes surprising selections like a sparkling rose from Portugal. And for non-alcoholic options, the tea offerings are terrific.
Vixen’s Wedding is a charming and beautiful space, accented with oversized fabric chandeliers, macrame room dividers, and vibrant hand-painted murals. A welcoming L-shaped bar offers counter seating while the rest of the dining room is framed by soaring windows. It’s a colorful, fanciful restaurant that feels exotic, yet homey and not so mystifying after all.