Gwendolyn gets friendly 

click to enlarge Ricotta in puff paste amuse-bouche. - SCOTT ANDREWS
  • Scott Andrews
  • Ricotta in puff paste amuse-bouche.

Since opening a year and a half ago, Gwendolyn has firmly held her ground: a circle of land precisely 150-miles in radius from the small restaurant on the banks of the San Antonio River. That's the limited territory that provides the artisanal fixings for Michael Sohocki's expression of extreme locavore principles. In a quest for authenticity and healthy eating, the kitchen limits ingredients and techniques to those practiced before 1850, and tends to favor culinary influences that reflect San Antonio's 18th century demographics — German and Czech influences dominate. But Sohocki and crew have still found room to experiment. In the last month, Greek dishes have found their place on the ever-changing prix-fixe menu; plans for the immediate future include a week of charcuterie specials. The event will be held the end of the month at Restaurant Gwendolyn and several other restaurants (we've heard The Monterey and Blue Star Brewing Company are on board — details to come), but you can get a preview with Gwendolyn's char board, offered at $20.

Our attention was caught by changing price points. In addition to affordable lunches introduced earlier this year at $6-$12, and a recent a la carte dinner menu priced $12-$32, Gwendolyn has quietly added an early bird special. Offered between 5:30-6:30 p.m. with reservations, it slashes the usual $55 three-course meal to $35 (sorry, no discounts on the $75 five-course dinner).

Last week, an amuse-bouche of ricotta in puff paste introduced the first course of rich roasted fig and persimmon paired with a savory bite of house-made bacon, a palate-opening trio before the main dish of pan-seared quail topping bigoli arrabiatta — a fat spaghetti-like Venetian pasta. Quail is often served baked whole, but rough-cut and pan-fried, the tender meat was exceedingly moist and succulent. To complete the trio plus-one, a desert of crème bavaroise with the tang of Meyer lemon echoed earlier fruit tones. The individual tastes and textures of each course were delightful, but it is the sequencing and timing (be sure to allot at least 90 minutes for the experience) that are most impressive. Like a painter or composer, Sohocki deals in negative space, using the time between the courses like un-figured ground, or the caesura, or rest, in music. We may show up for the bright and dark flavors of honestly treated ingredients, but as in a concert or exhibition — the take-away is the experience.

Restaurant Gwendolyn

152 E Pecan, Ste. 100
(210) 222-1849
restaurantgwendolyn.com
Hours: Lunch 11-30am-2pm, Mon-Fri; Dinner 5:30-9pm Tue-Sat
Prices: $6-$75

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