Archive for June, 2010

Silo Elevated Cuisine

Friday, June 25th, 2010

What started as a fun twist on its unique original location on Austin Highway above the old Farm to Market (now Nosh), Silo Elevated Cuisine’s name is little more than a contrivance with regard to its second story digs on the outskirts of Stone Oak. This is only a minor mental annoyance. Unfortunately, being cute also comes with a real, albeit small, physical inconvenience – the elevator to the dining room is toe-tapping slow.
 

Once you have risen above, both to the second floor and your impatience, you enter a dining room that, despite residing in a generic shopping center, is smart, upscale and modern, clean and crisp. Perhaps it does feel a bit sanitized and detached, in keeping with its suburban surroundings, and in relative contrast to the warm, inviting, familiar atmosphere of its Alamo Heights digs. One could make that argument. But, for me, Alamo Heights is too far removed in distance to justify the extra mileage for a small degree of added atmosphere. Besides, sometimes going somewhere chic (very true of Silo 1604 at dinner), warranting this busy self-employed mother of a four-year old to dress up and wear sassy shoes, is a fantastically welcome thing. http://www.siloelevatedcuisine.com/

On this occasion, our party of five dined at Silo for lunch in celebration of jobs well done. Our group always goes to Silo for this semi-annual event to thank those who work hard and at such a consistently high level. Apropos? Certainly. And on this occasion especially, since, like this amazing group of women, the food was impeccable with evident, but elegantly veiled, effort…skill appearing easy. The service also seemed effortless, with a comfortable balance of banter and quiet, attention and restraint.
 

 

Silo's Grilled Miso Glazed Salmon

Three of the five in our group ordered the Grilled Miso Glazed Salmon with Cilantro Texmati Brown Rice and Julienne Vegetables. Unanimously, they enjoyed the dish immensely, one raving that it was perhaps the best salmon dish she had ever eaten; and after a small pause, another saying that could quite possibly be true for her as well. Since I only had one bite of this delicious dish I cannot go to such heights. However, I can say that the salmon, for which our outstanding server kindly recommended a medium rare preparation, was cooked perfectly. It was moist and flaky. The miso glaze was a wonderful salty, sweet calming complement to typically strong salmon. The miso enhanced the taste of the salmon, lifting the flavor even, by grounding it and taking the edge off. The vegetables were colorful and firm, the rice fluffy and flavorful.    

Oak Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Loaded Potatoes

Another in our group ordered the Oak Grilled Beef Tenderloin with “Loaded” Whipped Potatoes and Grilled Asparagus with a Whole Grain Mustard Hollandaise. Sounded amazing, looked even more so. Her silent focused eating and happy dreamy face, indicated she was so relishing her meal (like this was the last before weeks of soup and pudding) that I dared not interrupt.   

Blue Crab Cake on Angel Hair Pasta with Sautéed Spinach

I ordered the Blue Crab Cake on Angel Hair Pasta with Sautéed Spinach and Roasted Corn-Jalapeno Tartar Sauce. The crab cake was exceptional, the lumps of crab incredibly generous in size and amount, and divinely sweet. The overall texture was fabulous, with just enough breading to bind and lend to the cake’s golden exterior. The tartar sauce, which for me was a bit heavy-handed, was layered with great flavor and also had wonderful texture. The vinegary bite of the pickled jalapenos, the slight smokiness of the corn, hints of tarragon and the creaminess of the real mayonnaise came together very nicely and complimented the crab cake incredibly well.

My only complaint about this dish is that in some ways it lacked cohesion, particularly with regard to the spinach. While the spinach was done well with great garlic, it seemed like an afterthought – just plopped on the side. The pasta was also very tasty, but it was another soft element and in my opinion the dish would have been better served with something crisp, perhaps a slightly chilled slaw. Despite this, I would order this dish again in a heartbeat. The crab cake was so delicious and really…isn’t that the reason for ordering the dish.
 
The food and service at Silo’s second location are elevated in the best sense of the word and the one which ultimately matters most, and they are absolutely worth the little more than brief wait for the elevator to get you there.
   
Silo 1604 on Urbanspoon   
 
 

 

  

El Mirador

Saturday, June 19th, 2010

A couple of weeks ago I found myself having lunch with a dear friend, who with good fortune works in Southtown, a thriving and eclectic cultural and economic center of San Antonio. For those unfamiliar with this brilliant part of San Antonio, Southtown is the heart of the arts scene in San Antonio – home to Blue Star Art Complex and First Fridays. And while Southtown is modern and hip and young, this area also incorporates the King William District, steeped in tradition, with its grand historic homes, majestic century old oak trees and the iconic Pioneer Flour Company.

It is also home to some of the best restaurants in San Antonio, serving some seriously good eats, and as widely diverse as the area itself – there are places “in the scene” to be seen, small cafes and funky bars with a friendly neighborhood vibe, and long established restaurants that feel as homey and welcoming as your grandmother’s kitchen. El Mirador on South St. Mary’s Street falls wonderfully into the last category. In 1967, Julian and Maria Trevino opened El Mirador during HemisFair and it has been serving home-style, straight from the soul, Mexican food to its customers “as if they were guests in the Trevino home” ever since. http://elmiradorsatx.com/

I have been to El Mirador on many occasions, but quite some time had passed since my last visit. Not much had changed. This was a good thing. Instantly familiar and warm, El Mirador gave me a feeling of immediate comfort. Like the friend who I met for lunch, El Mirador and I picked up right where we left off, without skipping a beat.

Lunch started off as always with chips and salsa. The fresh tomato salsa was excellent with simple ingredients and bright flavor. The chips were crisp, not oily, and perfectly salted. I ordered the flautas, which were, on this occasion, good but not great. Even understanding that they were made in a very traditional style, they were still on the skimpy side. They were also a bit dry. So I was especially thankful for the dollops of sour cream and guacamole sitting happily atop. The flautas were not in the least greasy, however, the rice was a tad so. I cannot comment on the beans normally accompanying this plate, since I always eliminate them. My friend had the beef soft tacos, which looked and smelled fabulous, and must have been tasty because she ate every last bite.

While my meal was not exceptional, it was good. El Mirador consistently serves high-quality traditional Mexican food. Their caldos (soups) are outstanding and the only reason I passed on this day was because it was so hot outside. And while one of their fantastic margaritas would have solved this, I still had to go back to work and actually get some things accomplished.

I continue to, and will always, have a great fondness for El Mirador. As I drove away, I thought how it had been too long since I’d seen these two old friends, how I had missed them, and how I was not going to let so much time pass until our next visit.

El Mirador on Urbanspoon

Watermark Grill

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Girls Night Out last month found us at Watermark Grill, the sister restaurant of Pavil Restaurant and Bar. Not only is Watermark in the old Reggiano’s site, at the corner of 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway, its interior décor is very similar to Reggiano’s, retaining much of the old furniture and fixtures. Those are where the similarities end. Along with a more fresh and bright atmosphere (if memory serves Reggiano’s was quite a bit darker), Watermark offers some of the freshest, most high-quality seafood in town. Pair this with expert service and reasonable wine prices, and you have a sure bet for an exceptional evening with great friends.

On this night, we thought we had the good fortune of in season soft-shell crab (a personal favorite). The dish came with two crabs on a bed of haricot verts with a butter cream sauce. The haricot verts were well-seasoned and cooked just through, preserving a nice snap. However, the soft shell crab was in my opinion lacking. The crab, quite obviously very fresh, had good color, with a wonderful, firm texture. Unfortunately, they were over-salted. This is a common mistake for the average person given crab’s already salty nature, but for professional chefs at this level – and price – it is disappointing. In addition, given the choice of sautéed and tempura, I ordered the crab tempura style. For me, tempura suggests a light and airy, crunchy breading. The barely there breading on the crabs in this dish did not fit at all into what I think of as tempura. Rather, it was soggy and strange. I probably would have faired better with the sautéed soft shell crab. 

Although my main dish did not meet my expectation, our appetizer of Judith Point Crispy Calamari (with lotus chips and scallions) in a Chile Coconut Milk Sauce far exceeded all expectations. The fiery spice of the sriracha (a Thai chile sauce) and cool sweetness of the coconut milk was beyond fantastic. The calamari rings were fried to perfection, not in the least rubbery, with exceptional flavor. The incredibly thin lotus chips were a nice surprise, adding to the exoticism of the dish and lending a fun, flavorful, crunch which I enjoyed immensely. Then there was the sauce…a sauce in which I could have dipped my fingers and licked them off…one by one…over and over again.

But of course I was not alone at home, rather I was at a fine dining establishment with friends, so bread had to suffice. Watermark happens to have its own bakery next door which supplies bread to seven other restaurants in town, including Pavil, as our kind waiter explained. So this was not a terrible second option. And suffice it to say that when the calamari and bread were gone, we requested that bowl of sauce remain at our table and more bread be provided. When that bread was finished off, one friend then went to dipping some of her seafood from her seafood platter (which she thought was excellent) in the sauce. Delicious!

While I actually had a wonderful time at Watermark and look forward to trying other dishes, including those from its remarkable raw bar, it is the memory of our amazing appetizer that assures my return to Watermark Grill.

Watermark Grill on Urbanspoon