TRAVEL THERE: SOUTH-OF-THE-BORDER JEWEL IN THE PEARL
While researching our trip to San Antonio, two lines of interest converged – The Pearl and restaurants. I knew I wanted to experience the Pearl and since it’s a hotbed of culinary delights, it made sense for our first meal in the city to be there.
The Pearl and The Jewel
Do you know The Pearl? It’s the premiere venue for everything San Antonio nowadays. It used to be the old Pearl Brewery, but now it’s a complex of shops and restaurants – oh and the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). It’s the sight of a weekly Farmer’s Market, an annual Tamale festival and more.
Along with a handful of other interesting restaurants run by budding entrepreneur chefs, the CIA runs NAO – New World Flavors. I wouldn’t necessarily say Bill and I are foodies, that requires a lot of devotion, but I can say with confidence that we love food. To us, eating at a restaurant run by the CIA just made sense.
We arrived in San Antonio just ahead of The Polar Express, but things were beginning to chill up nonetheless. I’d envisioned an evening of strolling around the venue and ending up at NAO. It was chilly enough that we made as direct a flight as we could to our restaurant of choice.
It’s not the most obvious place at The Pearl, but after a few wrong turns we scurried into the chic, upscale restaurant. Concrete floor, minimalist tables and chairs and interesting artwork were our initial impressions. The kitchen is wide open and patrons can see what the CIA chefs are up to.
The menu is very different. You find familiar entrees prepared in ways you never dreamed of. The dish at the top of this post was my dinner. It was halibut or sea bass, but look at the flowers, the heart of palm and swanky mushrooms. The purple stuff under the fish was potatoes. OMG!! Heavenly!
Bill’s choice was just as tasty. He also chose a fish dish, but by mistake. He read about the way the filet was to be prepared and assumed it would be beef. He was only mildly disappointed to get fish instead and after the first bite he was thrilled with it. The green things are soybeans, the pearls are couscous and that sauce – heavenly!
I’ve mentioned that I’ve been dieting and I’ve been very good, but there was no way NOT to have dessert at NAO. Bill even got a post-dinner cordial. I forget all the details of the duo, but chocolate was the primary force of nature blasting away our taste-buds. On South Beach you can have three bites of anything, so I indulged, carefully.
Obviously, I think you should go to NAO. Bill said if we lived there we might just have dinner there every night. That’s not to say it was the perfect dining experience. Our waiter was inexperienced and the decor is a little chilly for our tastes, but the food? OUT OF THIS WORLD!
I regret that our stay didn’t include Saturday. I’d have gladly gone back for the Farmer’s Market, Tamale Festival and Saturday morning brunch at NAO.