TRAVEL THERE: SAN ANTONIO’S NAO WITH NEW WORLD FLAVORS
A Culinary Gem in The Pearl
In San Antonio, two of my interests converged – The Pearl and food. The Pearl is San Antonio’s premiere event venue and it was at the top of my list, but I wasn’t sure what to do there. On a weekend trip to San Antonio, the Saturday morning Farmers Market would have been a no-brainer, (In fact, if we’d stayed through the Saturday of the week we were there, we could have enjoyed their annual Tamale Festival) but we wanted to have a go at Dickens on the Strand. So I settled for having dinner at The Pearl and so we wouldn’t miss it, I put it on our first night’s agenda.
NAO and the CIA
The Pearl used to be The Pearl Brewery, but it gave up it’s brewing a long time ago. Now it’s a hip place for foodies and party people. Along with a stable, there’s some retail and residential, as well as several educational facilities, one of them being the Culinary Institute of America (CIA). As soon as I discovered one of the restaurants at The Pearl, NAO – New World Flavors, was run by the CIA, deciding which restaurant we’d visit got real easy.
As we left our hotel, La Mansion del Rio, on the way to The Pearl, Polar Express weather was making it’s approach to San Antonio, so the night was a bit chilly for strolling. After parking (something of a challenge), we made a rather crooked beeline for NAO, because it wasn’t the easiest thing to find. You might have thought our bee was a little drunk.
Entering the restaurant, I was plenty cool and so was the atmosphere. Hard surfaces dominated. Brightly striped upholstery on the banquettes was the only relief from minimalist decor. Seated in the center of the restaurant, we had a good vantage point for observation. Things were quiet, but it was Wednesday night.
What’s for Dinner?
New World Flavors, in the case of NAO, means novelle cuisine with a South American twist – and can you say DELICIOUS? I chose the flower-covered fish with mushrooms and heart of palm slices. Since I was trying to diet on this vacation, it seemed a safe choice. The purple stuff under the fish was potatoes, but it was just a smidge of potatoes. Bill ordered “the filet” and thought he was getting a steak. Wrong filet. But he only regretted his mistake up until the moment he took his first bite.
The entrees were so marvelous we couldn’t resist dessert. Bill even had an after-dinner cordial, something he never does. The theme of the post-entree choices was chocolate, but I don’t remember their names and I forgot to take pictures. That’s OK, there’s no way the pictures could have looked as good as everything tasted.
Of course you should go to NAO. Bill said if we lived in San Antonio we might just give up cooking and eat there every night. I wish I could tell you more about The Pearl, but it was just too brisk outside to do anything more than rush back to the car. Come by next week for breakfast.