When i heard that popular San Antonio restaurant Silo was in the family way, I was excited for the mother-to-be. The modest but excellent dining room in exclusive Alamo Heights had been childless for years, while far less worthy restaurants were reproducing like hamsters. It was high time, I harrumphed to no one in particular, for Silo to have its own Mini Me. So imagine my surprise when, cruising down busy Loop 1604 looking for a little newcomer that resembled its prim mama, I finally spotted a gleaming logo in the distance atop a two-story glass facade. Was that it? Yes, indeed. To push the animal metaphor to the breaking point: The duck had hatched a swan.
After ogling the live-music lounge downstairs, my friends and I stepped into the dining room, a minimalist study in black and white illuminated by crystal chandeliers and silvery globes. Ooh-la-la. The effect was so à la mode that when we finally got around to scanning the menu, we were pleasantly surprised to find many old favorites, including the deservedly famous chicken-fried oysters.
We ordered a round. The crispy critters came nested on beautifully sautéed spinach under a dab of subtle whole-grain-mustard hollandaise. Happily, they were as moist and light as the ones at the original location, maybe even more so. They disappeared at warp speed, so we requested another shareable starter, shrimp and grits. That darling of the food world also vanished in record time, even though it was the luxurious andouille-and-pepper-jack grits that were the star attraction rather than the pair of immense but slightly overcooked shrimp.
After a couple of excellent salads, we began to worry about ruining our appetite, so we got serious and ordered up a little surf and a little turf. Of our two fish dishes, the clear winner was my splendid hunk of seared yellowfin tuna, crusted to a fare-thee-well with Szechuan peppercorns. As good as it was, though, the accompanying Texmati brown rice, spiked with bits of shiitake mushroom, actually bested it (proving that “fabulous rice” is not always an oxymoron). By comparison, a friend’s special of sautéed lemon snapper, in orange vinaigrette with crab-and-corn risotto, was perfectly nice but nothing to inspire a lifetime of cherished memories.
Among the turf excursions, the biggest, boldest flavors were claimed by the braised and grilled kurobuta pork shank. Accompanied by a spicy ancho-and-dried-cherry sauce, the outrageously tender meat came with modern mac and cheese: green-chile orzo with Texas chèvre. Ostensibly a good idea, the pasta proved short on pizzazz.
It is tempting to rattle on, because so much of the food I tried was so good (don’t get me started on the veal T-bone with fontina polenta, which was beyond fantastic). But I’ll stop by saying that for a restaurant that had been open only a week when I visited, baby Silo is growing up fast. Chef Gus Ortiz has made the transition with aplomb (founding chef Mark Bliss is manning the original place), and mother and child are doing fine.
Try this recipe for Guajillo Crusted Beef Tenderloin from Silo Elevated Cuisine, San Antonio.