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Botika Opens at the Historic Pearl

Botika Opens at the Historic Pearl

Botika is now open at Pearl.

Botika is now open at Pearl.

Chef Geronimo Lopez has opened Botika, a Peruvian-Asian restaurant, at the Historic Pearl. The menu features Chifa and Nikkei cuisine as well as inventive takes on classic dishes from Asia and Latin America.

Chaufa

Chaufa includes crispy pork belly and sofrito.

 “We have been working so hard and prepping for this day for the last several months,” said Lopez. “We are so thrilled to be welcoming the San Antonio community to our restaurant, and introducing them to this new flavor profile I think the city will really love.”

 Botika’s menu features picaderas like Tuna Tartare and Chifles, Pork Jowl Steamed Buns, and Duck Confit and Potato Salteñas as well as ceviches and tiraditos, like the Al Tumbo, deep-fried ceviche with tamarillo leche de tigre. Sushi rolls include the Costa Roll, with shrimp, crispy rice noodles, and sweet ají sauce, and the Sweet Plantain Uramaki Roll, with green onion, Neufchatel cheese, and spicy ‘crispies’.  Wok selections are led by the savory beef Lomo Saltado and the crispy pork belly Chaufa rice dish.

 The restaurant features an open kitchen and a sushi-ceviche bar with counter seating, plus an inviting cocktail lounge area with vibrant ambience. Botika’s cocktail menu includes a variety of sakes, rums, piscos, and cachaças. Cocktail selections include the Batucada (cachaça, lime, sugar, angostura), Güenazo Cooler (sake, canton, yuzu, lime, mint), Piscolero 101 (pisco, chicha morada, lemon, tonic), and more.

Piscolero 101

Piscolero 101

“Pearl couldn’t be more excited to be home to a groundbreaking restaurant concept for San Antonio,” said Shelley Grieshaber, culinary director at Pearl. “Chef Lopez’s interpretation of Peruvian-Asian cuisine is unique to this city. The flavors are an intricate blend of familiar and exotic, and the atmosphere is vibrant and fun. Prepare to be transported to a new culinary destination!”

Lopez was most recently the executive chef and an instructor at Culinary Arts at the Culinary Institute of America in San Antonio, where he led the opening of the school’s NAO restaurant (now Nao Latin Gastro Bar).  Including his home country of Venezuela, he has led the kitchen at top restaurants and resorts in six countries over the past 20 years.

 Botika, 303 Pearl Parkway, is open right now Monday through Saturday, 5 to 11 p.m. Extended hours, lunch service, and late night dining hours will be announced in the upcoming months. Due to limited initial opening hours, reservations are encouraged and can be made by calling 210-951-9393 or by visiting botikapearl.com.

Sweet Plantain Uramaki Roll at Botika

Sweet Plantain Uramaki Roll at Botika

There are several dining areas to choose from at Botika.

The interior of Botika

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Meet — and Eat — the LGBTQ Burger

Meet — and Eat — the LGBTQ Burger

The LGBTQ Burger at Grayze on Grayson. (Photo courtesy Out in SA)

The LGBTQ Burger at Grayze on Grayson. (Photo courtesy Out in SA)

In the wake of the Orlando shooting, Grayze of Grayson at 521 E. Grayson St. is cooking up something special in partnership with the San Antonio Pride Center.

In an effort to bring awareness to the LGBTQ community and raise funds for programming at the Pride Center, Grayze is offering a special, messy, monumental burger, available June 22 through July 2. 

The mile-high LGBTQ Burger -- legumes (aka refried beans), guacamole, bacon, tomatillo pickles and queso -- is available for $15. Four dollars from each burger will be donated to the San Antonio Pride Center.

For more information, call (210) 482-8776 or click here.

 

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It’s Pizza Times Two

It’s Pizza Times Two

The antipasti plate at Il Forno.

The antipasti plate at Il Forno.

Everyone approaches pizza a little differently, and different is good in a world of too much uniformity. There's the thin crust, which gets scorched on the bottom while the toppings sort of melt together in the blazing heat of the oven. Others go for a thicker crust, sturdy enough to hold a little extra in the way of toppings. And deep-dish pizza fans go for what non-fans politely call a casserole, in which each slice is stacked high with a lot of everything.
The Vegetali at Capos.

The Vegetali at Capos.

You can also go into the handmade approach to the crust, no matter how thin or thick, as well as the finest and freshest of ingredients spread out on top. And, in my book, there's the delicate use of anchovies, which work to unify the rest into a boldly flavored whole. (Who am I kidding? Your touch with the anchovies doesn't have to be delicate. Just make sure they're included. And I'll take a few on the side while you're at it.) Recent visits to two pizza parlors on different sides of town convinced me that all's well in San Antonio when it comes to this favorite food. The first was to Capos Deck Oven Pizza, 17676 Blanco Road, just inside Loop 1604. Hidden in a tiny strip mall next to the mighty fine El Jalisco Grill & Cantina, the restaurant makes no pretension when it comes to ambience. There are a few bar stools, if you want to eat your pizza by the slice on site or wait for your order to go. Instead of focusing on furnishings, owner Ricky Perna's attention seems to be squarely on producing a Buffalo, N.Y.-style pie that will have you reaching for a second slice even before you've finished the first.
Capos' Calzone

Capos' Calzone

That certainly was the case with the Capos Supremo with pepperoni, Italian sausage, black olives, roasted onions, mushrooms and, for dramatic effect, bright strips of roasted red peppers. The Vegetali was a sight to behold, with artichoke hearts, red pepper strips, spinach, red onions, mushrooms and more artfully arranged on top so that each bite brought a different fresh vegetable taste. The crust for both was not wafer or cracker thin. In true New York style, it had a little more body, but it packed a good yeasty flavor and was sturdy enough to hold that mouthwatering array of toppings. The same dough was used to good effect in the stromboli with its pepperoni, meatballs and ocean of melted mozzarella and romano cheeses, and a meaty calzone that had more cheese than one person could handle with good meat flavor in every bite. A solid cold Italian sub, with tangy red onions offsetting the richness of the ham, Genoa salami and cheeses,  finished out this meal with friends in style. I remember owner Ricky Perna from the days when he owned Goomba's, which I had loved for its honest approach to Italian-American favorites. It's great to see he hasn't lost his touch.
The baked green tomato Caprese salad at Il Forno.

The baked green tomato Caprese salad at Il Forno.

Michael Sohocki's Il Forno on Nogalitos is more authentic Italian or perhaps chef-driven Italian, but most every bite rated raves from the same group of friends. The interior of the restaurant is every bit as spare as Capos, though more spacious.
Watermelon Panzanella at Il Forno

Watermelon Panzanella at Il Forno

Sohocki, from Restaurant Gwendolyn, has assembled a group of cooks who stress the visual appeal of the dishes they offer as well as the blending of flavors, with the end result being art on several levels. We'll let the pictures of the various dishes we tried -- and we kept trying more and more -- do most of the talking. Just remember that each dish contained some surprises that will haunt us until our next visit. Chief among them were the spicy sausage slices on the antipasti tray, the farm fresh egg on the pizza with prosciutto and sauteed parsley, the tangy croutons in the watermelon panzanella, the fresh tomatoes on the puttanesca pizza. I'll let the photos of the food at Il Forno tell the story. All were eye appealing, and all tasted even better than they looked. Don't settle for boring or chain creations when it comes to your pizza, people. People all over this town are creating soul-satisfying pies just for you, as both Capos and Il Forno ably demonstrate. Capos Deck Oven Pizza 17676 Blanco Road (210) 362-1901 www.capospizzasa.com Il Forno 122 Nogalitos (210) 616-2198www.ilfornosa.com
The puttanesca pizza at Il Forno.

The puttanesca pizza at Il Forno.

Prosciutto and a farm-fresh egg crown an Il Forno Pizza.

Prosciutto and a farm-fresh egg crown an Il Forno Pizza.

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County Line Music Series Moves to Thursdays

County Line Music Series Moves to Thursdays

The popular live music series at The County Line is back, and it continues to raise food and funds for the San Antonio Food Bank.
Blue Highway Band

Blue Highway Band

But there's a difference this year. The Ancira Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram 2016 Live Music Series, as it is officially called, is now on Thursday nights at the restaurant, 10101 I-10 W. Also new this year: full seating and dining are available on the patio beginning each concert night at 6 p.m. through the end of the concert at 9:30 p.m. Happy hour will run inside and outside of the restaurant, from 3 to 9:30 p.m. on concert days. The series is now in its 16th year and "our faithful crowds have grown up with the series,” says Mike Crenwelge, general manager of The County Line. Held on the restaurant's open-air patio, the headliner goes on at 7:30 p.m. Concerts are held rain or shine.  Free parking is available at Hallmark College, less than one block away. Here are the performers for the 2016 series to date: April 28           Prophets & Outlaws May 5              Sam Riggs May 12            Mike Ryan Band May 19            The Damn Quails May 26            Band of Heathens
Cameron Nelson

Cameron Nelson

June 2              Ruby Jane June 9              Cody Canada - solo June 16            Blue Water Highway Band June 23            John Baumann June 30            Mike & The Moonpies July 7               Matt Kimbrow July 14             Dawn & Hawkes July 21             Southern Brothers Tour featuring Adam Hood and Jason Eady July 28             Folk Family Revival Aug. 4              Cameran Nelson Aug. 11            Bri Bagwell Aug. 18           Jake Ward Aug. 25           Special Guest TBA 6/12 Sept. 1             Dale Watson Sept. 8            Harvest Thieves Sept. 15          Roger Creager The live music series is free. However, all who attend are asked to make a food or monetary donation to the San Antonio Food Bank.  Since it started, the series has raised more than 934,742 lbs. of food for the San Antonio Food Bank.  In the 2015 series alone it raised 47,278 pounds. “Live music nights at The County Line are THE place to be for all hunger fighters,” says Eric Cooper, President and CEO, San Antonio Food Bank.  “We are so very thankful to the team at The County Line for their effort and passion and making the Food Bank a beneficiary of this great concert series.  For 15 years, two great institutions have come together with food, music and philanthropy to feed Southwest Texas.” Sponsors thus far include Ancira Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram; Rebecca Creek; Enchanted Rock Vodka; Twilight Services; KSYM 90.1 FM; Comfort Air; Red Bull; Ozarka; Hallmark College; and Pure Party Ice. The County Line continually updates the concert lineup on its website at http://countyline.com/I10Music_shedule_sponsors.html. Call 210-641-1998 for more information.

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The New Hotel Emma at Your Service

The New Hotel Emma at Your Service

The library invites you in for a good read.

The library at the Hotel Emma invites you in for a good read.

The Hotel Emma has opened at the Historic Pearl Brewery. It is the crowning jewel of the campus, which has been revitalized under the supervision of local philanthropist Kit Goldsbury. For those of us who remember the ruins of the area more than a decade ago, the renovation of the ornate centerpiece building at 136 E. Grayson St. is nothing short of miraculous. But thanks to the efforts of acclaimed design team Roman & Williams as well as a great many locals, the building is now as stunning inside as it is outside.
The lobby features pieces from the original brewery.

The lobby features pieces from the original brewery.

Every nook and cranny in the hotel, as least those I saw on a recent tour, which did not include the rooms, seems to have been filled with something of history, from the transformation of beer vats into private bar areas to a board room filled with volumes on beer making that date back to when the original brewery was in operation. The library is both intimate and overwhelming. It seems to draw you to an overstuffed chair with the book of your choice from the massive collection of local writer Sherry Kafka Wagner.
The bar at Sternewirth

The bar at Sternewirth

Sternewirth, the bar, will keep your eye busy at every turn, whether its focused on the spiral staircase in one corner or the silo sitting areas. In the Larder, you can grab a coffee, get a freshly baked pastry or stock up on gourmet treats, such as locally produced Sandy Oaks Olive Oil or a bottle of wine. Supper is the hotel's restaurant, and it features the finest and freshest foods in season. All of the food operations come under chef John Brand.
Grab a snack and a coffee at Larder.

Grab a snack and a coffee at Larder.

A demonstration kitchen area is available for cooking classes, one way to show off the food lover's aspect of the hotel. So, let your sybaritic self luxuriate in all that the Hotel Emma has to offer. You don't even have to stay there to enjoy the place. Go in for breakfast, lunch, dinner, a drink, a snack or just a look. For more on Supper, click here.
The entry to Sternewirth

The entry to Sternewirth

The staff at Larder

The staff at Larder

One of the refurbished vats at Sternewirth

One of the refurbished silos at Sternewirth

The cooking demonstration kitchen

The cooking demonstration kitchen

Another view of the lobby of the Hotel Emma

Another view of the lobby of the Hotel Emma

 

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Supper Opens for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Supper Opens for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

The dining room at Supper in the Hotel Emma.

The dining room at Supper in the Hotel Emma.

Supper has opened at the Hotel Emma, the crowning jewel of the Historic Pearl Brewery.
Chef John Brand

Chef John Brand

The new restaurant at 136 E. Grayson St., is helmed by chef John Brand, who also serves as culinary director of the hotel, which should be most every food lover's dream resort, whether you're visiting for a meal or for the weekend.

"Supper marks the first Texas restaurant project for acclaimed design team Roman & Williams, recipients of the 2014 Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award," a press release from the restaurant reads. "Lauded for a design aesthetic that embraces the historic quality at the very essence of the Hotel Emma project, the duo created an intimate setting that seamlessly combines historic and modern elements. At Supper, with its menu of fresh, green market cuisine that flirts flavorfully with many local and regional cultural inspirations, Roman and Williams’ glossed white interiors set a light-filled stage for an unpretentious meal. Roomy booths create a welcoming ambience and pendant lights bathe the dining room in a warm, happy glow.

Apple and parsnip soup.

Apple and parsnip soup.

"Supper will boast 96 indoor seats, a scenic patio that accommodates seating for 50, and a private dining room for intimate gatherings and events for parties of up to 24."

A recent lunch there showed Brand, known to many for his work at Las Canarias and Ostra, to be in fine form. The meal started with spinach and ricotta gnudi, a dumpling that's related to gnocchi. It was presented with fried capers and grilled pickled artichoke hearts.

A cup of apple and parsnip soup added a fall feeling that was pure comfort.

Main courses included a juicy burger, served medium well as ordered, with a colorful salad on the side, and roast chicken with mushrooms, cauliflower and a parsnip puree.

Dessert was all indulgence with a burnt sugar panna cotta topped with sweet potato sorbet, crumbled chocolate cake and sea salt.

In short, the lunch held forth the promise of great flavors to come.

Your menu may not be the same as what we were offered. It will change with the season and whatever is freshest, from seafood to soups to salads.

Brand's also overseeing Sternewirth, the hotel's extensive bar, and Larder, where you can get coffee, pastries and gourmet treats to go (look for the burnt marshmallow Rice Krispie treats).

Supper is open for breakfast from 7 to 10 a.m.; lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; and dinner, 5 to 10 p.m. For reservations, call (210) 448-8351. For more information on Supper, click here. For more in the Hotel Emma, click here.
Spinach and ricotta gnudi

Spinach and ricotta gnudi

The burger with a side salad

The burger with a side salad

Roast chicken with mushrooms and cauliflower

Roast chicken with mushrooms and cauliflower

Members of the Supper kitchen staff at work

Members of the Supper kitchen staff at work

 

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The Cortez Family Opens Viva Villa Taqueria

The Cortez Family Opens Viva Villa Taqueria

The Cortez family has opened its fourth restaurant, Viva Villa Taquería, in the city'’s historic Market Square. It's the family'’s first fast casual restaurant, in a lineup that includes Mi Tierra, Pico de Gallo and La Margarita. It features a chef-inspired menu featuring more than 30 tacos along with craft beer and wine, Big Red, soft serve and more.

viva villa taqueria Viva Villa lives up to its namesake, Pancho Villa, by offering “revolutionary tacos” while letting customers design their own meal. Customers select from three styles -- “cazuelas”, “mercado” or “mini-street tacos” -- and are able to choose their own toppings.

Viva Villa is open every day for breakfast, lunch and dinner where customers can grab-and-go or sit down with the restaurant'’s free Wi-Fi. Local food delivery service is available as well as a drink to-go program that lets patrons stroll around El Mercado with margaritas in hand or take their craft beer home in a refillable 64-ounce growler.

viva villaAlthough Viva Villa is the family’s newest restaurant in San Antonio, it grew from historical roots. Its 110-year-old brick building incorporates the original brick work in a space modernized to comfortably seat 75 people inside and 70 people outside. Complete with a giant pop-art mural of Pancho Villa, distressed leather booths and mango wood imported from Costa Rica, Viva Villa’s ambiance is nothing short of urban revolution. 

Viva Villa’s old-meets-new concept is largely influenced by chef and general manager Cariño Cortez, a third-generation foodie who grew up in the Cortez family’'s restaurant business. Her family tradition began at Mi Tierra Café in San Antonio, but her passion for cooking has taken her across the country. She is expanding her family’'s legacy thanks to her education at the Culinary Institute of America. A profound care for food, family and culture inspired her custom menu creation and the development of Viva Villa.

Viva Villa is at 905 Dolorosa. Call (210) 225-3955 or click here for more information.

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At McDonald’s, It’s Hotcakes for Lunch and an Egg McMuffin for Dinner

At McDonald’s, It’s Hotcakes for Lunch and an Egg McMuffin for Dinner

mcdonalds-Sausage-McMuffin-with-EggHave you ever shown up at a McDonald's at about 11 a.m. with a hankering for a sausage burrito and being told you're too late for that eye-opener? No more. Starting Tuesday, McDonald's is serving breakfast all day long. That's right, you can have an Egg McMuffin sandwich, hotcakes platters and sides, such as fruit and yogurt, all day long. The availability of hash browns varies by location, so if that means as much to you as a cup of fresh decaf or a stack of hotcakes with sausage, then do your homework and call first. mcdonald's hotcakes"We are thrilled that our San Antonio customers can now experience McDonald's breakfast any time of the day," said Jesse Guajardo, a McDonald's franchise owner. "Our all-day breakfast menu includes a combination of iconic sandwiches, like the Egg McMuffin, and wholesome choices, such as Fruit & Maple Oatmeal. We are truly excited to give our customers what they have been asking for for so long." This move should be a big winner for McDonald's. More than 120,000 people tweeted the fast-food restaurant in the past year alone asking for all-day breakfast, according a press release from the local McDonald's franchises.  

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Griffin to Go: Scenes from Restaurant Week

Griffin to Go: Scenes from Restaurant Week

Culinaria's Restaurant Week continues, so what better reason do you need to go out and eat?
Smoke's Shrimp & Swine

Smoke's Shrimp & Swine

Nothing, in my book, which is why I headed out to several lunches and a dinner in the past week. The trips started with a visit to Brian West's Smoke: The Restaurant and a $10 lunch that was largely wonderful. It began with a warm pork jowl and shrimp salad, also known as Shrimp & Swine, in which the meats were tossed with cabbage and bacon. One bite convinced us that it was a masterful blending of flavors and textures, and it left us with an appetite for the meaty pleasures to come. The main course is a three-meat plate. I don't know if the lineup changes, but we were pleased with our trio of turkey, pork and brisket. A delicate touch of smoke laced the juicy slab of turkey while letting the real flavor of the meat shine through. The brisket was tender, but the salty crust was even more impressive; the thick-cut serving also tasted good with the house chimichurri sauce, thanks to its bright garlicky base. Strands of moist pulled pork filled out the tray and provided a great vehicle to try the six pack of sauces that arrived at the table; I preferred the tangy tomatillo sauce, while you might prefer the sweeter honey mustard. Give them all a shot.
Bolo's Monte Cristo

Bolo's Monte Cristo

Dessert was a welcome serving of banana pudding that featured firm yet flavorful slices of fruit floating in a creamy base with a vanilla wafer offering a crunchy contrast. I had a hankering for this homespun favorite before the first morsel of food arrived, thanks to a waiter who bore a tray of servings past our table shortly arrived I arrived. The food in and unto itself made for a great lunch, especially at $10, and we were lucky to have an attentive server even though the restaurant was slammed with diners. Unfortunately, the background music was so loud that it was hard to hear my companions that day. They had asked for the music to be turned down before I arrived a little late, and while their wish was granted, that seemed to last for only a song. By turning the music back up, Smoke lost one of my friends who decided he had no need to return, no matter how good the food is. I'll opt for the outdoors when the weather isn't so hot.
Bolo's lemon sorbet with stone fruit

Bolo's lemon sorbet with stone fruit

My second lunch visit was to Bolo's Rotisserie Grill at the Omni Colonnade, a short trip from my day job. The special menu, at $15 for lunch, began with a grilled Caesar made with smoky romaine that had been wilted and slightly charred on the grill. A light taste of oil from the roasted poblano dressing added to the fresh of the lettuce while pearl tomatoes, grown on the hotel's rooftop garden, added a bright touch. A couple of anchovies would have been even more welcome, but I welcome anchovies with most any dish. The main course was a Monte Cristo sandwich filled with generous slices of honey-roasted turkey and Hill Country ham as well as plenty of Swiss to help melt it all together. The French toast that surrounded the meats and cheese arrived sizzling to the touch and went from hot and crisp to a welcome warm soft state before the last bite disappeared.
Biga's snapper with pappardelle and bacon

Biga's snapper with pappardelle and bacon

Dessert that day was a lemon sorbet instead of the advertised mango, and that was perfectly fine with me as it arrived over a medley of plums and peaches in a passion fruit and honey sauce (the honey was also harvested from that rooftop garden). It sent me back to work with a sweet smile. By Saturday night, I was ready for more, and Biga on the Banks happily delivered. My friend and I were able to split most of the Restaurant Week options even without quibbling over who would try what. She wanted the advertised soup choice, a chilled bowl of potato cilantro soup, which was refreshing after a hot day even as it excited with a drizzle of chile oil on top. I opted for a special that evening, a warm soup with roasted mushrooms and cauliflower, which proved earthy and bold; one spoon convinced me it would be hard to top, no matter how good the rest of the meal proved to be.
Biga's mousse bar

Biga's mousse bar

And it turned out to be quite good indeed. A Kobe beef burger (with a slab of foie gras for a $15 supplement) was practically perfect, thanks to a juicy slab of meat matched by a bun loaded with the flavor of caramelized onion. The bread overwhelmed the foie, so we merely removed it and enjoyed it by itself. The burger and fries were bolsterd by a robust Simi Cabernet Sauvignon. I've been trying somewhat to increase my seafood intake, so I ordered the seared snapper over pappardelle pasta. The fish was firm and fresh, complemented by the dill in the sauce, and truly satisfying. I just won't tell my doctor about the bacon that also appeared in the sauce, sending the dish into a whole new realm of texture and flavor. We finished off the evening with a chocolate-raspberry mousse bar topped with melted orange marshmallow, which was dense and rich, but somehow couldn't eclipse the brilliance of lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream. Add in Biga's always excellent service and inviting ambience, and you have the perfect illustration of why Restaurant Week is such a favorite of diners. I hope your adventures are proving to be as rewarding.
Biga's lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream

Biga's lemon custard with blueberries and coconut ice cream

Smoke: The Restaurant 700 E Sonterra Blvd. 210-417-0175 http://smoketherestaurant.com/ Omni Colonnade – Bolo’s Rotisserie Grille 9821 Colonnade Blvd 210-699-5864 http://www.omnihotels.com/ Biga on the Banks 203 S. St. Mary’s St., Suite 100 210-225-0722 http://biga.com/

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Griffin to Go: Restaurant Week Brings a Welcome Mix of Old and New

Griffin to Go: Restaurant Week Brings a Welcome Mix of Old and New

Kirby's Angus New York strip

Kirby's Angus New York strip

Culinaria's Restaurant Week, which is actually two weeks this summer, offers the chance to see what some old friends are up to while introducing us to new places on the city's dining scene.
Kirby's braised lamb shank

Kirby's braised lamb shank

And so it was with visits to the new Alberico Fine Wine and the reliable Kirby's Steakhouse on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Let's start with Kirby's, which has long gotten into the spirit of Restaurant Week by offering a varied menu and by being the first to extend the special an additional week. This year's special menu, available for $35, begins with an extra appetizer, available for $7 -- and it's worth every penny. It's a chorizo-stuffed quail atop a bed of smoky jalapeno coleslaw, both of which are as fine as you can imagine. The spicy sausage offered a nice contrast to the moist fowl while the slaw had the right balance of heat and creaminess to make each of want more. The menu begins with starters that included your choice of two bacon-wrapped scallops with spinach, fried artichokes or a baked Caprese, a kind of Napoleon of tomato slices topped with a Boursin-stuffed portobello mushroom. All disappeared quickly.
Kirby's baked Caprese

Kirby's baked Caprese

Then arrived the real star of the evening: a rustic braised lamb shank in a meaty rosemary thyme au jus that was pure comfort food, tender perfection in every bite. A 10-ounce Angus New York strip lacked the velvety nature of prime, but the beef flavor won out. Glazed salmon topped with pecans was a little sweet for my tastes, but one of my friends enjoyed it as well as the red bell pepper risotto that came with it. There's also a prosciutto-wrapped filet that might call us back for a second visit. Dessert options included butterscotch chocoflan, which was a little on the dry side, and a strawberry mojito sundae that hit all the right buttons on a sweltering August evening, thanks to a lively combination of berries, whipped cream, mint and a touch of rum. We forgot that Sunday was half-off wine night at Kirby's, so imagine our surprise when we got the bill and noticed that our bottle of 2008 Ridge Lytton Springs was listed at $27.50, instead of the usual $55. It was just the right note to end the evening on. Special mention must be made of the excellent service, which made the visit all the more special.
Alberico Fine Wine's tuna

Alberico Fine Wine's tuna

We were looking forward to our first visit to Alberico Fine Wine, and we were impressed with the wine program as well as the help we received from the sommelier. The restaurant and wine bar, located in the Yard next to Olmos Perk, offers all of its wines by the glass and at a good price. Plus, you can enjoy it in your choice of environs: a light and cozy bar area; a cool, spacious dining area; or in the inviting wine room. It's too bad that the food largely failed to match the wine experience. Dad's Salad was a single leaf of romaine lettuce topped with diced unripe tomato, a few paltry cubes of avocado and strands of red onion. The watermelon and feta salad with arugula was far better, in fact the refreshing combination was the best dish of the evening. Duck medallions were served in a sauce that was far too sweet, throwing off the pleasantness of the dry Barolo we'd ordered. Just-seared tuna with grilled vegetables were good, but they were served atop a mound of risotto that was gummy and cold.
Alberico's watermelon and feta salad

Alberico's watermelon and feta salad

A salt grilled peach struck the right note, but it was atop a nearly flavorless sorbet while a pair of creme brulees were a little too gritty when they should have been silken and creamy. It didn't help matters that our waiter was indifferent to his job duties and seemed to avoid our table, one of only three or four occupied in the place. In the end, it was all a part of what makes Restaurant Week special. Here's to more adventures in eating. Kirby's Steakhouse 123 N. Loop 1604 E. (210) 404-2221 kirbyssteakhouse.com Alberico Fine Wine 5221 McCullough Ave. (210) 320-VINO (8466) albericofinewine.com  

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