Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tuesday, 5/11/10 - Brasserie Pavil

Date: 5/11/10
Restaurant: Brasserie Pavil
Location: 1818 N. Loop 1604 W. Exit Huebner, it's just past it in the same plaza as the Roaring Forks and Wildfish, both of which are also on the 52!
Executive Chef: Scott Cohen, also of the Watermark Grill

This week is the New World Food & Wine Festival, with events spanning the breadth (and bread) of San Antonio. We are attending the grand tasting on Friday night, which features most of the who's-who in San Antonio and surrounding area's culinary world. With such an exciting event to look forward to, we almost skipped our Tuesday dinner date. I'm extremely glad we chose to go forward.

Scott Cohen is another of the bigwig chefs (to be fair, I believe he's bald) in San Antonio. He used to be in charge of Las Canarias, the lovely brunch place we visited in La Mansion on the Riverwalk, before it was bought by the Omni chain of hotels. He also is the executive chef at the Watermark Grill, which I haven't visited but have heard good things about. Brasserie Pavil is his other child. One part French bistro, one part mansion, one part well-stocked pub, this is a place to visit.

Lovely, open ambiance. Most of the decor is imported from Europe, including the tiled floors and oversized lamps.

You can tell it's authentic French by Saturday's "le surf & turf."

I had to get a shot of this amazing ceiling!

Our waiter gave us a rundown of what a "Brasserie" is: essentially, a brewery. This place had an amazing beer and wine selection, as well as a lovely list of cocktails including many varieties of absinthe.

We enjoyed all of our drinks, from perry cider to Hefe Weissen to my absinthe cocktail, the White Fairy (seen above), to a sophisticated and bitter champagne cocktail.

Side note: be prepared for delicious bread. 98% of everything on the menu is made in-house, which is remarkable. The freshness and quality of their ingredients really shows.

Our waiter (and darnit but I couldn't tell if it was Mark or Marco) was absolutely fabulous. Impeccable manners, great knowledge of the menu despite having only worked there two months, and excellent attention to our enjoyment of our meals and drinks. He rocked even more at the end of our meal, but we'll get into that later.

I started with this salad, frisee lettuce with a poached egg, bacon and hazelnut vinaigrette and some mushrooms that largely escaped notice. I learned something about myself today: I do NOT like frisee lettuce. It is incredibly bitter. Even the creamy, fatty poached egg and bacon could not keep it in balance for my taste. I let Mark know and he immediately had the kitchen change it for a replacement salad made with butter and spring greens, which was beautiful and I gobbled every bite of it.

We go to a French restaurant, we get French onion soup. This is known. Tavis adored it. I liked it, especially the hearty helping of cheese, but the bite that I was reluctantly permitted to eat wasn't as addictive as I wanted. I have high standards in my French onion soup.

Tavis went with one of the daily specials, tempura-battered soft shell crab over crispy parsnips and sauteed vegetables, with a huckleberry glaze. We both found it delicious and satisfying, just the right balance of sweet and savory although the veggies were too heavily peppered for our taste.

I had somewhat of the same problem with my entree, the vegetable cassoulet. I don't know what's come over me, ordering a meal without meat. Anyway it was very hearty, filled with beans, carrots, artichokes, tomatoes, mushrooms and basil with a yummy breadcrumb crust. Perhaps a bit too soupy for my taste? And the peppercorns kept trying to attack me. I liked it; didn't love it.

Mmm dessert. French place, gotta get crepes. Optional toppings include flambeed bananas, strawberry puree, or double chocolate. I went with bananas and chocolate. Fluffy, drenched in rich sweet goodness. Just delicious.

Tavis's decadent 7 layer carrot cake. One bite of this and I was done. Serious rabbits only should apply. Their dessert menu also includes pear and frangipane tarts, creme brulee, pumpkin cheesecake, sorbets, ice creams and beignets.

As we were finishing our desserts and excellent coffee, we asked Mark about other specialties Brasserie Pavil offers. One of these is the option to enjoy your meal at the Chef's Table which is inside the kitchen (away from the burners, obviously). For $130/head, up to 6 diners may enjoy a 5-7 course custom-created menu prepared for them while enjoying watching the kitchen brigade at work. What fun!

Mark's moment of win: he also suggested that we could get a tour of the kitchen. You better believe we jumped on that! He delivered us into the hands of Sous Chef Jose, who walked and talked us through the kitchen. And what a kitchen! The layout has won awards. I believe it. Incredibly state-of-the-art design to minimize food contamination, beautiful machinery for every possible method of cooking, very efficient and intuitive use of space, and the kitchen brigade was all young, sharp and friendly. The menu changes seasonally, so re-imagining dishes is an ongoing event. I mentioned that I'm in culinary school right now, and Chef Jose assured me that if I have a "hunger" to learn and absorb and create, Brasserie Pavil's kitchen would have a spot for me. Score!

Returnability: yes. The bar is fantastic. The menu is creative and changes seasonally. We had mixed results with my entree and Tavis's dessert, but there were many other things to try. Overall we had a wonderful time from the food to the service. And someday in the near future, you may be served at the Chef's Table by yours truly.


Rosie Posie said...

"if I have a "hunger" to learn and absorb and create, Brasserie Pavil's kitchen would have a spot for me."


that is all.

Megan and Tavis said...

Rosie - THANKS. I feel all like a real person now, with real future-ish thoughts that may become plans!