On our second day in San Antonio, we had breakfast at a local landmark, Mi Tierra Cafe y Panaderia. Family-owned since 1941, it is located near the Mercado and is quite the sight–it seats literally hundreds of people, the servers are dressed in traditional Mexican garb, there are mariachis strolling and playing while you eat, and the place is decked out, ceiling to floor, in Christmas decorations (year round). Yes, it smacks of a tourist trap, but I had to know if the food was good despite the kitsch.
Well, it was good, but not great. The coffee was weak, but the orange juice totally made up for it. It really and truly was fresh squeezed, and it was delicious. My chilaquiles–crispy corn tortilla strips scrambled with eggs, topped with ranchero sauce, and covered with cheddar–were tasty, though I feel like I could have created the same thing in my home kitchen. Breakfast potatoes were passable, though I would have preferred them a lot crunchier. I couldn’t pass up the chance to try some barbacoa, which was pretty good (though underseasoned), and the fresh flour tortillas were amazing–I ate a couple with just a little butter, and I’d take that over toast any day of the week. In sum, Mi Tierra was perfectly acceptable hangover food, but I’m sure I could do some research and find MUCH better Tex-Mex in San Antonio.
For dinner, I made reservations at Citrus, a fine-dining restaurant in the oh-so-chic Hotel Valencia Riverwalk. The decor is very minimalist, but there are strategically placed bursts of color to keep the atmosphere vibrant. We were seated on time for our 8 PM reservation, and we quickly ordered a bottle of fume blanc (I found the wine to be reasonably priced, particularly compared to some of the ridiculous markup percentages I’ve noted lately in Atlanta). Our server went over the day’s selections, which could be arranged into a three- or four-course tasting menu (or ordered a la carte, but where’s the fun in that?). We opted for the four-course menu ($68; the three-course menu was $55) in order to taste something from each of the groupings.
For our first course, I ordered the thin-sliced kampachi with micro-mesclan and scallion ponzu sauce. The fish was incredibly fresh and flavorful, and the ponzu was deliciously salty, though I think it overpowered the dish toward the bottom of the bowl (where it was pooling a bit). Jason opted for the crab cake with toasted pumpkin seeds, sliced avocado, and micro-greens. I believe his exact words were, “You could feed a third-world country with just the crab in this crab cake.” It was, indeed, full of meat and very light on the breading; there was also a delicious hollandaise sauce that gave it even more richness.
I decided on the highly-recommended lobster lollipops for my second course. The HUGE pieces of lobster tail meat were fried in tempura batter, skewered, and served with a honey aioli saice. And yes, they were every bit as delicious as they sound–tender, sweet, crunchy, and ridiculously decadent. Jason had antelope, which was seared, sliced, and served with a very tasty berry sauce.
For my main course, I chose the long-cooked strawberry grouper, which was served with aromatic rice and green curry shrimp. The grouper was tasty, but it was a bit overcooked for my liking. The rice, on the other hand, was undercooked. However, the shrimp that came with the dish were enormous and perfectly cooked, and the green curry sauce was absolutely killer. Jason ordered the barbecue spiced duck breast with sweet potato-sausage hash and bourbon duck jus, and it was delicious. The meat was perfectly cooked, and the spices were lively enough to be interesting but not so heavy as to overpower the fowl.
For dessert, we tried the local blueberries with sour cream and the cinnamon croissant bread pudding with bourbon glaze. The former was simple and elegant, and certainly the plumpest blueberries that I’ve ever seen. The latter came with some amazing homemade vanilla ice cream, but I found the bread pudding itself to be a little dry. It was covered in candied pecans, though, which provided a lovely sweet crunch.
Service was attentive and knowledgeable, though our waiter did spend a lot of time explaining menu components like “wagyu,” “coulis,” and “cipollini.” Even Jason, who loves food but isn’t nearly the nerd that I am, felt like he was being tutored in “Food 101″ (though neither of us felt like we were being condescended at all). I guess that’s what happens when you try haute cuisine in San Antonio instead of San Francisco. All in all, though, Citrus was an extremely pleasant and delicious dining experience, and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for fine food in the area.