Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for May: RoMo's Cafe

I didn’t have to travel more than a few miles from home to get to May's featured restaurant for The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out series! Little did I know that one of San Antonio’s best new restaurants is located right in my neighborhood...lucky me! I’m so glad that I had a chance to visit RoMo’s Cafe and sample some of their signature menu items. For local readers, RoMo’s Cafe opened on Culebra, not far from Ingram Park Mall, last fall. Since then they’ve steadily built a loyal following of regular customers...and they’ve received tons of local accolades for their fantastic food.

RoMo is a combination of the names of chef-owner Rob Yoas and his wife and business partner Monica. Chef Rob attended the Culinary Institute of America branch here in San Antonio following a stint in the military. After graduation, he decided to open his own restaurant...focusing on local ingredients and a mix of items that ranges from sandwiches and salads to upscale gourmet fare. Let me tell you -- this place is legit: the meats are all cured onsite, and the bread and desserts are baked fresh on premises too. There’s a menu of core items that are offered daily, but Chef Rob is rightly proud of the creative daily specials that he offers. This is where he has a chance to really let his creativity take center stage.

Michael and I recently were Chef Rob’s guests for a multi-course tasting of some of his menu items. We were treated to an appetizer, a salad, a sampling of their house-cured meats, entrees, and dessert. As usual when I visit a restaurant for this series, I put myself in Chef Rob’s hands and let him share his favorite items with us. I like to conduct my reviews this way, because I always enjoy seeing what surprises come my way...and it usually results in me trying something I normally might not order. Michael snapped a few interior pictures while we waited for the food to arrive. The restaurant’s walls are decorated with colorful art, and there's a lot of natural light in the dining room. 

Then...our appetizer arrived: Arancini with Red Pepper Coulis. If you’ve never had arancini, it's cooked risotto surrounding a piece of mozzarella cheese that’s rolled into a ball, breaded, and fried. 

The arancini was crispy, but not the least bit greasy. This was our first indicator that we were in for a fantastic meal. Frying is one of those things that’s heavenly when done right, but a greasy hot mess if it’s done wrong. This little bite was fried perfection!
Next came a small platter with their wedge salad and amazing house-made blue cheese dressing, along with several of their house-cured meats. We sampled their pastrami and corned beef, both served with really tasty mustards...and some Carolina pulled pork with their special-recipe BBQ sauce. All of the meats were very flavorful and tender, but that salad with the house-cured bacon really knocked our socks off! The dressing was creamy and rich -- with pieces of a yummy mild blue cheese.

Before we knew it, the next dish arrived: Pork Schnitzel with Wilted Collards and Saba. The flavorful pork was crispy and light, not at all greasy. The slightly bitter collards played really nicely with the schnitzel, and the sweet-tangy saba brought all the flavors together very nicely. If you’ve never heard of I hadn’t before this dish...the flavor is a bit like balsamic, only sweeter. It’s addictive, so I need to go find some to play around with in my kitchen!

Next came another item from the specials board: Lemon Curry Chicken Tagine. This dish was served with preserved lemons over a warm potato salad. This chicken was full of exotic flavors...and the potato salad gave it a comforting, homey flavor. The chicken was a leg quarter -- not as easy to eat gracefully as a breast, but much richer flavor. Wow, was this ever good...exotic comfort food, if you will.

Next up was another item from their specials board: the very creative Scallop and Foie Gras Oreo. Here’s a picture, then I’ll give you the scoop on this one.

The “cookie” part of this savory dish was two crispy polenta rounds that were colored with squid ink. The “filling” was a just-cooked scallop cut in half and stuffed with a piece of foie gras. It was topped with a mango-habanero salsa...the fruit and heat paired perfectly with the other options. This isn’t an item that I would have picked to order, but I was so glad that Chef Rob picked it for me...I absolutely loved the creativity of this whimsical dish!! The sweet-hot salsa was especially nice.

But wait! We still weren’t quite more plate was on its way. This item is available every day: Duck Confit Ravioli with Johnny Walker Cream. This was heaven on a fork, my friends! Homemade pasta was stuffed with aged duck confit. The creamy sauce was flavored with Johnny Walker, and the mushrooms were the perfect earthy partner for the rich duck. Michael doesn’t care for lucky me had the entire ravioli to myself! The slice of sourdough bread was the perfect touch for dunking in the flavorful sauce.

We were getting pretty full by then...when out came dessert! We tried two items from their daily menu: the Pastel Impossible and the Strawberries and Cream Cake. Anything with strawberries is right up our alley, so we grabbed two forks and dug into that one first. Think strawberry shortcake on steroids: rich caramelized pound cake with macerated strawberries and fresh whipped cream. 

Michael enjoyed this one so much, I’m lucky I got even a bite or two! The Pastel Impossible is their take on Mexican choco-flan: separate layers of flan and chocolate cake. They up the ante, serving it in a pool of cream anglaise and salted caramel sauce. So rich...but so very good!

We were both so impressed with RoMo’s Cafe! The food served is fresh, inventive, and delicious...but the atmosphere is casual and relaxed. Even better? Chef Rob told us that nothing on the menu is more than $20...which is a total STEAL for food of this caliber! This is my kind of restaurant: gourmet food without the stuffy gourmet attitude. We left promising ourselves to come back to try more items very soon. We’re already eyeing the duck fat fries and the shrimp and grits...and I’m stopping in tomorrow to try one of their signature gourmet milkshakes and pick up a pint of their AMAZING blue cheese dressing to go with our dinner.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary tasting menu for two from RoMo's Cafe to facilitate this review post. However, all opinions are my own. The pictures for this post were taken by my talented photographer husband, Michael. 

RoMo’s Cafe on Urbanspoon

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