Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Tuesday, 6/15/10 - Boardwalk Bistro

Date: 6/15/10
Restaurant: Boardwalk Bistro
Location: 4011 Broadway, next to the Witte Museum, in the same Boardwalk on Broadway that includes our beloved Tre Trattoria as well as Koi Kawa
Executive Chef: Russell Atkinson/David Yokuty

Taking a week off for a trip to Dallas, our return back to San Antonio couldn't have been more inviting. We're back to our new favorite cluster of restaurants, right next door to Tre and the Witte Museum (speaking of which, if you're in the area, you might want to check out their Dinosaur Exhibit. It's not huge, but some neat animatronics combined with mind-blowing recent discoveries that even a dinosaur-happy brother and husband didn't prepare me for!).

Where was I?

Oh yes. Boardwalk Bistro.

The inside. We were greeted by the proprietress/sommelier herself, a gracious hostess. Surprisingly uncrowded, although we arrived almost simultaneously with three other parties. (The wait was quite reasonable despite this conglomeration of customers.)

I love this ancient menu! So neat. Mediterranean in decor and menu influence, we had our choices of many types of tapas, lots of seafood, and amazing, in-house-created desserts. In addition, Boardwalk Bistro has a very reasonable 4 or 5 course "tasting" menu at $30/$34 respectively. The only fault with the tasting menu I had was the limited entree selection (only 4 choices!); other than that, it's a great deal for trying a lot of yummies.

Heeheehee! Isn't that just the cutest plate ever?

On to the food! I opted for the 5 course tasting menu, which includes an appetizer, a soup, a salad, one of the 4 entrees, and a dessert.

My appetizer, really more of an amuse-bouche for as small as it is. Artichoke hearts wrapped in serrano ham on a little baguette. Delicious, tangy and savory at the same time--but ordering a la carte, $8 seems a little steep for two yummy bites.

This was the defining moment when I realized I was in the presence of culinary greatness. "Beef stew" doesn't even begin to cover the richness and complexity and just drool-worthy yummy that this bowl contained. The veggies still had a bit of crunch, the beef tender, the broth unbelievably savory. I would live in this soup.

We were served a basket of delicious, buttery brioche as well, the absolute perfect vessel for sopping up bite after bite of soup.

This salad definitely took us back down from cloud 9, despite its pretty presentation in the Susur Lee bowl (hopefully someone besides Mom will get the reference). The blandest Caesar salad I've ever had, I couldn't taste anything but a bit of oil. Very disappointing.

My salad, including goat cheese, a port vinaigrette and a yummy crostini. Considerably better than the Caesar.

The entrees arrive! Mine was the crabcake, which came recommended via online reviews. It's served with a mango relish, avocado, citrus beurre blanc and greens in more citrus vinaigrette. The sweet and creamy salsas and sauces sort of overwhelmed the crab for my taste, but I still enjoyed this. That is, until I tried Tavis's entree and the world changed again.

Pan-seared pork chop. Stilton sauce, stuffing, side of risotto. If the photo is blurry, it's just because I'm weeping for joy at the flavors of this dish.

You MIGHT be a velociraptor if you...
*can't even finish your entree because it feels like cheating on the pork chop
*steal your husband's pork chop bone and gnaw it shamelessly in a fairly classy restaurant
*kiss your husband after dinner in hopes of catching one more taste of pork chop

Needless to say, I recommend the pork chop.

Our final taste of the night, a very yummy, tangy and sweet NY Cheesecake. Their desserts change here all the time, so I'd recommend stopping in often to see what's new. If they're all of this caliber, I doubt you'll go wrong.

Returnability: oh my gosh YES! The service and timing was excellent, the menu has so many unexplored options, including lamb and duck in many different presentations, and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface of their dessert menu. But I must say, it will be incredibly hard to keep from ODing on beef stew and pork chops. Such a difficult life I lead. :)

Tuesday, 6/1/10 - Gruene River Grill

Date: 6/1/10
Restaurant: Gruene River Grill
Location: 1259 Gruene Road in Gruene (aka New Braunfels) along the river
Executive Chef: Unknown

Yes, I've been shamefully absent from the interwebs. Two out of the past four Tuesdays we chose to skip, but I do have good eats and great photos on the other two culinary adventures. So let's jump right in!

Summer in Texas has exactly one redeeming quality: going down to the river. In this case, the river is the Guadalupe, the place is the historic town of Gruene, and the restaurant is the Gruene River Grill. If you can maintain any appetite after driving past one awful-pun-themed location after another, INCLUDING but not limited to The Village Gruene, Gruene With Envy, Tavern in the Gruene, and the Gruene Apple B&'ll arrive at our restaurant for the evening.

Everything about Gruene is, well, green and lush.

Why thank you, random welcoming man!

Views from outside and inside, respectively. What a neat building. We chose to sit outside and enjoy the view of the river.

There's quite a bit to enjoy. Hello, summer!

Service was prompt and the menu intriguing and fairly-priced. Our dishes arrived with a haste that contrasted the lazy river ambiance. No complaints here, we were hungry!

Taking a cue from the online research I'd compiled on this restaurant, I ordered us a round of Bellinis. A little heavy on the raspberry, but cold, refreshing and perfectly blended. The best part...during happy hour, these puppies (and by puppies I mean Great Danes, not Chihuahuas) were only $3! Unbelievable bargain to someone accustomed to being robbed for $12+ on the Riverwalk.

Our first round, shrimp wontons. Inside is a gooey explosion of cheese, bacon and serrano peppers. We liked the concept better than the execution, unfortunately. They were tasty but not something we'd want again.

I don't know that I've ever met a chowder I didn't like. This was no exception, creamy and thick with giant chunks of crawfish. Terrific stuff, even if on Top Chef they'd turn their noses up at serving chowder in the heat of a Texas summer afternoon. (Not pictured: Tavis's quite good Caesar salad, because even though it was quite good, it's, well, a Caesar salad. Not the most exciting photo. Moving on.)

My entree, Chicken Guadalupe. Chicken topped with avocado, salsa, bacon, and cheese. The chicken was just a bit dry, but pretty much anything smothered with all those toppings is going to be tasty. Still, I wouldn't order it again.

Tavis's absolutely amazing, literally-falling-off-the-bone tender Hawaiian ribs. Huge flavor, incredibly tender and juicy. The sides did not do it justice, both the new potatoes and the coleslaw were boring and forgettable. However, these ribs were massive win.

Speaking of forgettable, don't bother with the cheesecake. Not made in house, nothing special, darn my insatiable sweet tooth for requiring tribute when I KNOW it isn't going to live up to my expectations!

Returnability: to the river, absolutely. For the happy hour Bellinis, you better believe it. But I think there are other restaurants in Gruene we'll try for comparison before we come back to this particular one. While we had a wonderful time with zero wait, good service and an unbeatable view, the food was hit-or-miss enough that I won't feel guilty reviewing my options. Still, a perfect entrance into summer.