Our first venture into Restaurant Week got off to a rousing start Sunday evening with a trip to Antlers Lodge at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort.
We were seated close to the magnificent chandelier of antlers that dominates the air above the elegantly understated dining area. So, we could enjoy a view of it out of the corner of one eye, while also watching the staff work in the open kitchen that’s marked by a burnished array of gleaming copper cookware that we wanted to take home for our own kitchens. (If a pot’s missing, we didn’t take it. Honest.)
After drooling over chef Troy Knapp’s regular menu for a few moments — that bison tenderloin is calling me back for a return visit soon — we each found what we wanted on the special Culinaria Restaurant Week menu, which is a three-course prix fixe for $35 a person. The special offering runs through Saturday.
Two of us started with the Poblano Tomatillo Soup, a regular menu item that captured my attention because it promised roasted chicken, avocado and cilantro in addition. It was spicy and tangy, with just the right touch of creaminess to blend all of the rich flavors together, before ending with a pleasant chile burn on the finish. I had ordered a glass of the Gruet Brut Rosé, and the bracing acidity of the wine cleansed the palate, making me want to spoon more and more soup.
The third person in my party ordered the traditional Caesar, which a winning combination of crisp romaine, salty Parmesan as well as the salty, mouth filling richness of anchovy in it. It was fresh and a welcoming respite from the summer heat; yet despite the high temperatures, I still could have eaten a gallon of that soup.
Each of us was more than happy with our respective entrée choices. Moist, briny Gulf red fish was presented with a lively spice blend on the crust, while a petite prime filet mignon arrived with spicy poblano butter on it. The beef was velvety, tender and a perfect sponge for the butter. Half of an organic, free-range chicken had been roasted in rosemary-tinged butter, which left the meat perfectly moist. The skin was delicate with a few choice crispy parts, while the meat practically fell off the bone without it having been overcooked. (The chicken and red fish are also on the regular menu in addition to several steak selections.)
On the side of each were smoked Cheddar mashed potatoes, with an emphasis on the appealing smoke flavor that perfumed the potato, and fresh spears of asparagus that had been prepared to the point of being soft but without losing some crunch when you bit into them.
The breads were definitely not an after-thought, as you’ll find true in too many other restaurants. Pastry chef Lou Venditti’s choices included jalapeño corn biscuits and black pepper-cumin lavosh, and both disappeared quickly, though we were glad the kitchen brought us some regular butter to replace the sweet pecan butter they were served with. (Those of us who don’t want sweet except at dessert are becoming more of a minority every day, I know. And I also realize we are probably the first table to make such a request this year, if not longer.)
Dessert was a sweet, as it should be. It was buttermilk panna cotta, dense and delicious, with a roasted strawberry syrup on top. The roasted berries provided the one controversy of the evening. One friend didn’t care for the carbon flavor that the charred exterior of the berries provided. The other two didn’t mind the texture or flavor it contributed. We all agreed, however, that the almond cookies on the side, loaded with almond extract or marzipan or what have you to give it extra almond flavor, were spectacular. Light and airy, they provided a great contrast to the creaminess of the panna cotta while complementing the richness of the dish.
Here’s hoping the rest of our Restaurant Week adventures are as satisfying as this one was.
Hyatt Hill Country Resort
9800 Hyatt Resort Drive