Archive | January 28th, 2010

Two Restaurant Openings Set

Two Restaurant Openings Set

Two new restaurants will open in the coming weeks, offering diners new tastes from two of the city’s finest chefs.

• Damian Watel of Bistro Vatel, Ciao Lavanderia and others will be opening Cafe des Artistes at the San Antonio Museum of Art, 200 W. Jones Ave., on Feb. 15.

The restaurant will be open for lunch in the beginning, Watel says, with hours until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays when the museum is also open late.

The menu will include pressed sandwiches, salads and more. The space, which opens up onto the new extension of the River Walk, can seat up to 100 and is available for catered events, including weddings, brunches and more.

• Chef Bruce Auden says his new restaurant, Auden’s Kitchen in the Stone Oak area, will open Monday, Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. for dinner. It will be closed Feb. 7, then reopen Feb. 8 at 11 a.m., for lunch and dinner.

The restaurant, located in the Plaza at Concord Park, 700 Sonterra Blvd. at Sigma Drive, will be contemporary in concept, with an open kitchen, and moderate in price, according to Perney Shea, sales and catering manager for Biga on the Banks, Auden’s restaurant on the River Walk. “It has a great look, (local artist) Jill Giles did our design.”

Lunches, featuring entrees such as fish and chips, burgers, pizza, chicken pot pie and so forth, will be in the $12-$15 range, and dinners at around $25.

“It will be comfortable and casual, just as if you were sitting in the kitchen at a friend’s,” Shea said.

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The World’s Largest Free Breakfast Friday

The World’s Largest Free Breakfast Friday

Friday marks the annual return of the Cowboy Breakfast, an unofficial start of the rodeo season in San Antonio.

This year, the free breakfast runs from 4:30 to 9 a.m. at Cowboys Dancehall, 3030 N.E. Loop 410 near the Perrin Beitel exit. This is the latest location for the event, which has been held at places such as the Rim off I-10 and at Northstar Mall in the past.

The event, listed in the Guinness World Records as the largest free breakfast in the world, is sponsored each year by the Cowboy Breakfast Foundation, which raises scholarship funds distributed within the community.

Free coffee and breakfast are offered while numerous bands play in the background, helping warm up the usually chilly morning. (KENS 5 predicts the weather will be “cold, windy and wet” with showers likely and a low of about 38 degrees.)

The menu generally includes breakfast tacos, biscuits and gravy, tamales and more. But it’s San Antonio’s willingness to party at any hour of the day that makes the event so much fun.

See you there, rain or, well, not shine.

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Say ‘Aloha’ to Good Hawaiian Eats

Say ‘Aloha’ to Good Hawaiian Eats

Kalua Pork and Cabbage

House made potato chips with mango-papaya salsa

Some time ago we visited this family-owned restaurant, then called the Aloha Kitchen, when it was on Austin Highway. It was at the rear of a flower shop. You walked past the counter where you ordered bouquets, through a small room where you could buy Hawaiian shirts and, if I recall correctly, macadamia nuts and other such items.

After taking a few turns in a maze of hallways you got to a large room filled with tables. Now, you were in the one place in town that you could sit down and order authentic Hawaiian favorites.

The family business recently moved in to a small restaurant space on Harry Wurzbach Road. There is no flower shop to negotiate here, but at the Aloha Grill we found the same big, friendly spirit that we had before, and some very good food.

Food: 4.0
Service: 4.5
Value: 4.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

The two sisters serving tables in the dining room called out “aloha” when we entered and when we departed. They were happy to answer our questions about Hawaiian cuisine, and our server, Renée, did so with obvious interest and detailed information.

Our first question was about the three-color fried chips that we ordered with a bowl of sweet, spicy and fruity Mango Papaya Salsa. These were potato chips, but the color differences were because of where they were grown in Hawaii. The various types of volcanic ash in the soil lent them their hues of off-white, purple or terracotta, we were told. The potatoes are sliced and packaged in Hawaii, but The Aloha Grill fries them in house. They were a little greasy, but that’s never stopped us before from liking house-cooked chips. (In fact, salt sticks better to greasy chips than dry ones.) The salsa was simple but satisfying.  I am sure we’ll order it when we return.

Nalu's Teri Burger

Looking at their list of “Local Kine Favorites” we skipped the poi, a starchy paste that is a Hawaiian staple, and moved down the list to the Spam Musabi. Spam is another popular food in Hawaii, and we weren’t being snobs (well, not too much) by not ordering it.

Instead, we’d seen something more appealing, the Lomi Lomi Salmon. This dish was a reminiscent of pico de gallo or ceviche. Diced fresh salmon was mixed with similarly cut onion and tomato. The result was an ultra-fresh, mild-tasting mixture that we ate by the spoonful. It would also have been good as a dip or a topping for bruschetta.

My companion’s eyes are trained to go first to the pork on any given menu. Hawaiians love pork, and the dish that caught his eye was the Kalua Pork and Cabbage. The shredded roast pork, in a light pork-flavored broth, was mixed with perfectly cooked fresh cabbage mounded on top of sticky rice. It was so lovely to behold that I almost abandoned my Teri Burger, a half pound of hand-pressed Black Angus served on a toasted bun with teriyaki mayonnaise.

Lomi Lomi Salmon

We ended up sharing, as we generally do. The pork and cabbage was simple, but sheer comfort, all the way down to the broth-soaked lumps of warm rice. The burger was a perfect medium, the trimmings were fresh. I really liked the teriyaki mayonnaise.

When we go back (and we definitely will be back) the next pork venture will probably be the Pork Adobo; the beef lover will probably give the Mauimarkie Cheese Steak Sandwich (sliced grilled rib-eye, marinated in Teriyaki sauce, topped with melted Swiss cheese) a try.

Dessert was a choice between Mango Pie or Pineapple Cake.  We had both, it only seemed right. Had this been a contest, I think the fresh, creamy flavors of the pie pushed it just ahead of the cake – even though the cake tasted freshly made, heavily frosted (a good thing) and rich in pineapple flavor and macadamia nut texture.

The Aloha Grill offers much to go back to – we didn’t try the Aloha Maid juices, with choices like strawberry guava and passion orange. We were almost hooked by the Crab Quiche, too, or Uncle Choona’s Beef Kalbi, a Korean specialty that was served at the Aloha Kitchen, too.

Pineapple cake

Pineapple cake

Mango pie

We never did try the poi. My friend had been to Hawaii and didn’t just love the poi he’d had there, and I was similarly unimpressed with my experience of it. But we’ll trust Aloha Grill to show us, next time, just what good poi should taste like.

While I’d really like to mention every other dish on the menu, I hope you’ll go discover them for yourselves. You will be glad you gave this warm little restaurant a try. The ambience is pared-down simple, but the real atmosphere comes from the good aromas, tastes and friendliness of the personnel, as well as the authenticity of the food.

The Aloha Grill
1151 Harry Wurzbach Road (and Burr Road)
(210) 826-7426
Lunch: Mon.-Fri., 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner: Tue.- Sat., 5-8 p.m.
Closed Sundays

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