One of the best things about Austin is the increasing cultural diversity as the city grows.
Being a part-time foodie, I love to meet and learn from people who have a passion to share their versions of recipes and techniques that are born in specific ethnic subcultures within a country, defining further the more generally named cuisines that Americans are accustomed to. So it was a joy to discover Lucky Robot and then to learn more about owner Adam Weisburg and Director of Culinary Operations Jay Huang, who are making subtle changes at this sustainably-sound restaurant. Their partnership with Monterey Bay Seafood Watch is inspiring us to ask where every ingredient in our food comes from, as well as how it’s obtained.
During our visit to Lucky Robot’s South Lamar location, my guest and I really enjoyed perusing and tasting new Nikkei menu items. The word originally refers to a person with Japanese heritage who now lives abroad. A more progressive use, however, describes a certain type of Peruvian cuisine, (which is itself comprised of European, African and other Asian influences), that is prepared using ancient Japanese techniques and ingredients, some of which had to be substituted for what was on hand in Peru; thus making its own imprint on the Peruvian foodscape.
Much as Nikkei grew out of generations of food preparation and creative substitutes, the convergence of chefs at Lucky Robot, who are already highly skilled in their respective culinary niches, adds further culinary diversity.
With their hardline trajectory toward sustainable responsibility and cultural authenticity, the Lucky Robot team is forging the way into its own creative version of Nikkei, which at this cheerful and funky SoCo go-to is presented with a dash of whimsical surprise. As two-time Ora King Awards finalist Chef Jay said, “When Chef Julio joined the team, the combination of his Peruvian background and my Japanese training allowed us to really focus the food on Nikkei style cuisine. Our food is presented in the simple Wabi-sabi style while punctuated with pops of flavor from Peruvian aji chilies and sauces.”
Like the Japanese immigrants who had to find tasty and creative ways to replace ingredients not available to them in a foreign land, Lucky Robot’s commitment to seafood sustainability requires innovative ways to prepare certain dishes. Their popular Vegan Sushi and Chiki Toro are beautiful and delectable replacements for other common sushi presentations that have been depleting certain fish populations over the past couple of decades.
New menu additions and decor changes are delightfully designed with this same creative ingenuity and attention to detail that patrons and admirers of Lucky Robot have come to expect. As you become more familiar with the restaurant, its dedication to certain core values and what they call their Cultural Blueprint, you can easily see how these high standards are translated into a one-of-a-kind delightful dining experience.
Discussing the decor and how it is reflected in the menu Chef Jay explained, “The design of the restaurant has continued to grow with the culinary maturation of the food… The goal is to highlight the beauty of the dishes.” Indeed, the dishes stand out in their classic simplicity while you are never bored with the surroundings. We ordered Omakase (Japanese for “chef’s choice”) and were presented with fun, beautiful and tasty dishes from the new menu.
Whether you are a native of Austin or a visitor or anything in between, you should definitely check out Lucky Robot. Indulge yourself in the tasty innovative culture of this unique restaurant and see here how you can join Chef Jay and the Lucky Robot in their ongoing seafood sustainability effort which proves that small consistent changes can make a big impact.
Cover photo Photo Rj Jenkins/@atxlovelist
Rhonda Jenkins is a part time foodie, content creator and contributor.