Archive | December 10th, 2010

Olmos Park Bistro: Good at First Glance

Olmos Park Bistro: Good at First Glance

Olmos Park Bistro is at 4331 McCullough Ave.

The Italianate building that houses the new Olmos Park Bistro on McCullough Avenue is long on Old World charm. I felt some of that European allure last Saturday night, as we sat in the bar next to a long bank of doors pulled open to the surprisingly mild evening air.  Following this promising beginning, we found the food at the new Olmos Park Bistro to be good — and more than good.

The site housed Valentino’s di Olmos a few years back. Its new bistro identity comes from restaurateurs Michael Burkle, Patrick Lanchais and chef Laurent Rea. The trio formerly worked at L’Etoile, a long-lived French restaurant in nearby Alamo Heights that is now closed.

Duck Cassoulet was satisfying and deliciously herbal in flavor.

The menu ranges from fresh oysters — apparently very popular by the number of iced bowls crowned with glistening bivalves that went by— to steak frites (and the frites, or fries, were truly some of the best in town).

Steaks, roast chicken, moules (mussels) frites, a Fisherman’s Stew and other bistro fare were among the generous variety of choices.

My friends ordered the mussels in a buttery curry broth that was tastefully subtle on the curry seasoning while rich in pure shellfish flavor. What they liked best, though, was the very generous serving of mussels that came with each order.

Buttery crumbs topped my Duck Cassoulet, which was a treasure trove of duck sausage, a confit duck leg and a mound of well-cooked white beans. The sausage and the beans were rich, but the deep, green flavors of herbs — rosemary and thyme  — get equal billing for taking this homey dish over the top.

Strawberry Rhubarb with a crumble topping, at Olmos Park Bistro.

Firm white chunks of monkfish in an order of Fisherman’s Stew were impeccably fresh. We loved also the halved fingerling potatoes, as well as the clams and shrimp in a flavorful broth.

Dessert was something we didn’t catch the name of — all we heard was “warm chocolate”.  It turned out to be a small cake, molten inside, with a little surprise dish of coconut ice cream. All was well.

Some of the servers need a little time to get up to speed. We had to ask for water on several occasions and silverware taken away with one course was not always replaced at the next.  The maître d’, on the other hand, was too hyper. Observant, yes, as a good maître d’ should be, but we suggest he chill and take a cue from our server. She admitted she was in a learning phase — but her calm, fun attitude helped us relax, adding significantly to the pleasure of our meal.

Olmos Park Bistro is at 4331 McCullough Ave. It is open for dinner Monday-Friday and brunch on Sunday. Call (210) 826-0222.

Moules (mussels) Frites (and fries) were plentiful, and the crunchy fries on the side were some of the best we've tasted in San Antonio.

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Lüke’s Celebrity Chef, John Besh, Shares the Love

Lüke’s Celebrity Chef, John Besh, Shares the Love

John Besh (center) talks with guests at Lüke.

For the past week, chef John Besh has been in San Antonio helping the staff at his restaurant Lüke, 125 E. Houston St., get ready for a big opening night party on Thursday.

The River Walk brasserie, a sister of Besh’s Lüke in New Orleans, opened late last month, just in time for Thanksgiving.

An elbow-room-only crowd welcomed the celebrated chef and author of “My New Orleans: The Cookbook,” who divided his time between talking with the crowd and stopping to pick up a dish or direct a guest to one of the food stations.

“It’s a blessing,” says Besh of the success of Lüke thus far. “This is a bigger space but the spirit, the soul of the original Lüke is really here.”

Sautéed shrimp for a tasty Shrimp and Grits at Lüke.

What surprises have Besh encountered in getting acquainted with the local palate?

“I was surprised at how popular some of the things we have on the men have been. Like the choucroute (sauerkraut and sausage) and fresh oysters. ” And, “the Croque Madame and Croque Monsieur sandwiches outsell our burger,” he says.

It’s been a lot of work for Besh during the past week. Try telling that to his sons, though, who are back at home in New Orleans. “They think I’m off at Schlitterbahn or (Fiesta Texas) or Sea World,” the chef says with a laugh.

Besh’s business partner, Stephen McHugh, is chef at at the local Lüke.  The restaurant is open daily for lunch and dinner. For information, call 210-227-5853 (LUKE).

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