Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tuesday, 9/8/10 - Sandbar

Date: 9/8/10
Restaurant: Sandbar
Location: 200 E Grayson, in the complex of restaurants at the Pearl Brewery
Executive Chef: Andrew Weissman! One of the big chefs in San Antonio, owner/chef of Il Sogno and formerly of Le Reve, arguably the best restaurant in San Antonio (not that I managed to get my procrastinaty butt out there before it closed last November, wah)

Pearl Brewery is the source of much gnashing of teeth on my part. There's two parts to this. It is the site of the "other" culinary school in town, the San Antonio branch of the CIA. So whenever I say I'm going to culinary school, everyone says "Oh, at the Pearl Brewery?" Grr, argh. Nope I'm at the other one. The second part is this is the location of the Saturday Farmer's Market in town that I STILL have never frequented. These two things added up make me feel shamefaced, an imposter, a busboy in chef's clothes.

Or something. Whatever, I'll get over it.

The Pearl Brewery is also home to several intriguing restaurants that go (farewell, Texas Farm to Table--you were on my 52 but I didn't get to you in time) and come (hello, La Gloria, you bastion of Mexican street food!). Andrew Weissman, who as I mentioned above is one of the most well-known and respected chefs in the SA scene, has two restaurants here: Il Sogno and Sandbar. Tonight was Sandy.

Egads, seafood in San Antonio? Well if I'm getting it, this is where I'd want to get it. Let's take a tour, shall we?

Park in the public lot under the highway by Grayson, stroll past the Aveda Institute on your left and the CIA (grr) on the right, and after a bit of meandering you'll find Sandbar.

Very clean, crisp and cool interior. It's cold enough that I trust my fish in here. They open dinner service at 5:30; we got in about 10 minutes before that, which gave us just enough time to peruse the menu and make our selections. Hurray!

A note before continuing. As I was researching this restaurant prior to making the drive, I kept seeing the same two themes pop up in reviews: "Great food!" and "awful service!" Well, I sort of suspect that the staff had been alerted to these reviews and they'd had a meeting or two...we were greeted graciously and over the course of our meal no fewer than 5 servers and managers checked with us on how we were enjoying ourselves. Whoa baby! Way to take feedback, Sandbar!

On to the eats!

A bit of nostalgia preserved from Le Reve after it closed; this is Andrew Weissman's famous onion tart. It was startlingly tiny to someone who was expecting a personal pan pizza of oniony goodness, but the flavor and texture was absolutely divine. I could've packed away another 3 or 4 of them were they not $8 apiece.

Our second appetizer, one of their three ceviche options. I was itching for octopus because it just DOES it for me, but I opted for the more user-friendly fish so Tavis could enjoy some too. This was a combination of salmon, skate and something else that I forgot. It was a bit too limey for Tavis to really enjoy. With the contrast of avocado and bites of garlicky crostinis mixed in, I thought it was lovely. Very refreshing and excellent quality fish. To the side we also have smashed plantains fried and garnished with either kosher or sea salt. Deelish.

Before arriving, I was fretting about whether I would order the lobster bisque or the lobster roll. I couldn't justify getting both. Fortunately (well, sort of) the choice was taken out of my hands--they didn't have lobster bisque that day. So lobster roll it was!

Check out that gargantuan claw of meat. I loved this lobster roll. It was creamy, a bit zingy, great crunch with the slaw and very generous and sweet portion of lobstery goodness. In the background is a little potato salad that I wasn't wowed by.

Tavis played it a little too safe, ordering the fish and chips. The fish was good, the chips didn't do it for him. But it just wasn't the wow that he really wanted. Hopefully he'll choose better next time!

Time for dessert! This was today's special dessert, a mango souffle. How can you say no to that? Look at the height on this puffy ball of fluff! The mango flavor really came through but I didn't care much for the mouthfeel; it wasn't quite smooth enough for me. Tavis relished it enough for us both.

Oh my sweet delectable key lime pie. I love you so very much. I don't know how that piece got missing. Really. It certainly wasn't because somebody didn't have any impulse control before turning on the camera. Nope. Big mystery, never resolved, nothing to see here folks.

Returnability: Well, here's the thing. It was the best seafood we've had in San Antonio (with the possible exception of the fish and chips, but we can admit that's user error on our part)....but neither of us really jones for seafood. It's just not what gets us excited. So yeah we will probably come back here again, especially if we're with friends or family that enjoy lovely seafood at mostly-reasonable prices. But it just isn't where our heart is. Which is a pity. I will recommend it to all real seafood lovers out there, especially because of the apparent improvement in service. And if your key lime pie also arrives with a bite mysteriously missing, I won't say a word.