Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out for October: Viola's Ventanas

This month's edition of The Weekend Gourmet Dines Out is featuring Viola's Ventanas, the newest addition to the Barrios Family group of restaurants. We're already big fans of the authentic Mexican food served at their flagship restaurant Los Barrios and La Hacienda de los Barrios, so we were excited to visit Viola's Ventanas earlier this month. The spacious, light-filled restaurant is located on a few minutes from our home, so it's a convenient neighborhood location for us! Viola's Ventanas is named after the Barrios family's matriarch Viola Barrios, who was a well-known San Antonio restauranteur. The restaurant is dedicated to honoring her memory and serving some of her favorite homestyle Mexican dishes.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and were warmly greeted by the staff. We were shown to our table, where we looked over the cocktail menu while we waited for the kitchen to send out a couple of signature starters for us. Michael opted for the El Jefe Top Shelf Margarita served on the rocks, while I chose the fruity Strawberry Lemon Drop Martini. Both cocktails were well made -- not too strong, not too weak! As we sipped our cocktails, a duo of flavorful starters appeared at our table.
We each tried a small bowl of house-made Sopa de Fideo. It contained fideo noodles, a spicy tomato-based broth, tender chicken, and vegetables. The soup's slow-simmered taste was lick-the-bowl good! We also shared rich and spicy Mama's Queso. It's made from a blend of white Mexican cheeses and flavored with chopped tomato, onion, and spicy Serrano peppers. It had quite a kick and was fabulous rolled inside house-made flour tortillas. Dinner was off to a fabulous start! Owner Diana Barrios-Trevino came by our table to sit and visit with us for a while. She's such a warm and welcoming hostess, and she made us feel like part of the family.

Next came the entree course. Michael loves to sample the fajitas at every Mexican restaurant we visit, so he ordered the Beef Fajita Dinner. It came to the table on a smoking-hot on a sizzling comal with peppers, tomatoes, and onions. His fajitas came with Spanish rice, frijoles a la charra, guacamole, and pico de gallo on the side. The platter of fajitas was colorful, and the tender beef had a wonderful grilled flavor.
I opted for a seafood entree: Camarones Tropicales -- a skewered shrimp dish. It featured large shrimp stuffed with Serrano peppers and cooling cream cheese wrapped in bacon and grilled on skewers. The skewers also featured juicy pineapple, bell peppers, onion, and tomatoes. The flavor combination of smoked bacon, sweet shrimp, juicy pineapple, and spicy chiles was fabulous. My dish was served with Mexican rice, frijoles a la charra, sliced avocado, and mango pico de gallo. I was in good! Then came the final course: dessert.
We split two housemade desserts from the dessert menu: Pastel Tres Leches and Creamy Vanilla Flan. The tres leches cake was moist -- but it retained its shape nicely without falling apart. It was sweet -- but not overly so. We really enjoyed it, and it was perfect for sharing! The flan was creamy and light. Some flan I've tried in the past were too eggy...this flan was perfectly creamy and lightly sweet. These desserts were such a nice ending to our meal. What I really liked is that Viola Barrios' namesake restaurant has so many special touches to remind diners of her. The menu features many of her signature recipes, and a large painted portrait of Viola hangs in the main dining room. The gorgeous embroidered jacket that you see her wearing in the portrait is also framed in a shadow box that hangs in the restaurant. Viola's Ventanas is located on several acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. After dinner, we snapped a moody night-time picture of the restaurant's exterior.
If you live here in San Antonio, Viola's Ventanas is located on Westover Hills, between Highway 151 and Culebra Rd. If you find yourself visiting San Antonio for a weekend getaway to either Sea World or the Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort, the restaurant is a short drive from both locations. The staff is friendly and helpful, the Mexican food is authentic, and the restaurant's atmosphere is absolutely lovely!

Disclosure: Viola's Ventanas hosted us for dinner to facilitate this feature. All opinions expressed are solely mine, and all photographs are copyrighted by Michael K. Garcia. They may not be copied or otherwise used without prior permission.

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