Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for June...Featuring Citrus at The Hotel Valencia

This month's featured restaurant for The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is Citrus, located on the picturesque Riverwalk inside The Hotel Valencia. Chef Jeff Balfour's restaurant offers breakfast, a paella lunch weekdays, and a multi-course dinner menu that focuses on locally-sourced ingredients. Add in attentive service, elegant decor, and Riverwalk views...and you've got a winner of a restaurant on your hands! That's not just my opinion -- Citrus was recently named one of the Top 20 Places to Eat Now by San Antonio magazine. Chef Balfour recently invited Michael and I to come for a dinner tasting to sample some of their signature menu items. The food was gorgeous to look at and fabulous to taste!

We dropped our car with the friendly valet located directly in front of The Hotel Valencia, walked up the stairs to the second floor, and quickly found Citrus. After entering the restaurant, we were quickly escorted to our table. We couldn't help but notice how elegant and romantic the restaurant decor -- featuring  low light and shades of red and orange -- was. 
Our friendly server came to our table, introduced herself and presented a bottle of chilled white wine for us to enjoy with our first two courses. It was a lovely crisp, dry 2007 Stonestreet Broken Road Chardonnay from the Alexander Valley region of California. This wine paired perfectly with our first two courses of the evening. Our first course offerings included (1) a lovely crab cake served with creamy avocado slices and a refreshing baby mesclan salad and (2) plump Nantucket Bay scallops served with carrot jus and roasted trumpet mushrooms. The crab cake was full of lump crab and perfectly cooked, and the sweetness of the crab worked perfectly with the rich avocado. The scallops were perfectly seared, their sweetness matching well with the earthy mushrooms and the slightly sweet carrot broth.

Our second course offerings included (1) a grilled and slow braised oxtail sope and a salad of sliced heirloom tomatoes, green pepper salsa, sea salt and chopped red onion. The sope was an upscale take on a traditional Mexican food item; the rich shredded oxtail meat reminded me a bit of Mexican barbacoa, its richness balanced by a tart red pepper aioli slaw and an earthy masa base. The salad was perfect for Summer: light and refreshing. The heirloom tomatoes were full of flavor and juicy, and the salsa provided a touch of heat. 

Between the second and third courses, our server brought out a second bottle
of wine for us to enjoy with our entrees. This time Chef Balfour selected a red wine for us, a robust French pinot noir. This full-bodied red wine was rich enough to stand up to spices and red meat featured, but it was also very smooth and easy to drink. As we sipped our wine and discussed how much we enjoyed the first two courses, we admired the nighttime Riverwalk view just outside our table. Chef Balfour hand-selected our menu that evening, so we waited with eager anticipation to see what delicious dishes would come out of the kitchen next. 

Our third course offerings included (1) a natural filet of beef served with butter braised potatoes, roasted mushrooms and a Merlot wine reduction; (2) char grilled mild bronzini filets with chanterelle mushrooms and a salt cod fritter; and (3) pan-roasted South Texas antelope with peppers, honey-chipotle potato puree and a chiffonade of mustard greens.

All three of the entrees featured rich flavors and a nice variety of seasonings and spices. The filet of beef was perfectly cooked, and the potatoes and mushrooms were perfect partners. The bronzini was moist and smoky from the wood grill, and the antelope was tender and moist. The antelope wasn't the least bit gamey, but it was bold enough to stand up to the bitter greens and the sweet-spicy potatoes. We were starting to get full, but we saved just enough room to sample two desserts from the fourth course on the menu.

We tried the Hazelnut Cheesecake with Salted Caramel and the Cinnamon Croissant Bread Pudding with Bourbon Glaze. Both desserts were sweetly rich, the perfect ending to a fabulous meal. The cheesecake was rich, with the salted caramel helping to cut its richness. The bread pudding was amazing...topped with a sweet bourbon glaze, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and a piece of crunchy pepita brittle.

By then, we were feeling very stuffed...and I mean that in a good way! By the way, Citrus provides complimentary valet parking for its guests, so make sure to have your server validate your parking ticket before you leave. That's a nice customer service touch that not every Downtown restaurant offers. On our way out of the restaurant, we noticed a display case with a variety of glass oranges near the elevators (Hotel Valencia...get it?!?!?). Each was signed by celebrity guests who had stayed in the hotel. I couldn't help but notice that one of my favorite bands, The Police, was included. The orange was autographed by Sting. Being under the roof of The Hotel Valencia -- albeit not at the same time -- may be the only thing that Sting and I have in common, but I'll take what I can get! 

If you're looking for a fantastic fine-dining experience in Downtown San Antonio, look no further than Citrus. After your meal, it's very easy to walk down to the Riverwalk for a romantic post-dinner stroll. Fine food, great wine, attentive service, and a lovely Downtown view make Citrus a perfect dinner destination.

Disclosure: Citrus provided us with a complimentary dinner tasting and wine pairings to facilitate this feature. The opinions expressed are my own, and all photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or otherwise used without obtaining permission.
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