Dallas-based Stephan Pyles already has a James Beard Award for Best Chef under his belt. As one of the mero-meros in Southwest cuisine, the fifth generation Texan is again a semifinalist for James Beard's Outstanding Chef award. It's his fourth nod.
In San Antonio, Pyles has tried leaving his mark at Sustenio for the past several years with so-so results. First, it was through help from David Gilbert, who drew attention for his amazing presentation. But once Gilbert left to open Tuk Tuk Tap Room, Sustenio went into a funk.
After a brief dabble in Mediterranean fare, it's now going back to Pyle's roots with big, Texan flavors. Drawn into the eatery by a photo of their current Happy Hour menu, I made the not-so quick jaunt up I-10 to check out the offerings.
Offered Monday through Friday from 3 to 7 p.m., Sustenio's social hour is for the hungry food and cocktail lovers. I can't say how long the happy hour will last at such affordable prices, but if you've got your wits about you, you'd head straight there. The tiny chalkboard atop the marble bar laid out the specials — $2 tacos, half off flatbreads and small plates, half off specialty cocktails and half off Texas and domestic brews.
The menu is enticing. Honey-charred pork belly with apple slaw, 72-hour brisket with blue cheese powder and a fried oyster with jicama cole slaw rounded out the taco offerings, usually $3 each. Although the tortillas could have been warmer, we gushed over the fried oyster that was crunch, briny, and tangy in one fell swoop.
My partner-in-crime ordered a prickly pear mojito and I opted for the peaches and peppers, both formidable drinks on their own, made by bartender Mike. If there's one thing that hasn't changed about Sustenio, it's the distinct ritzy ambiance.
Technically inside the Eilan Hotel, the eatery's tucked just right off the marble-lined lobby. Businessmen conferred over icy beers in different corners of the bar, and a woman on-the-go typed away on her Mac while enjoying a white wine. Once the weather becomes less erratic, the posh patio will make for a nice view.
The evening ended with a TX Peach 76 of white Meyer's peach whiskey, Mourin vermouth blanc and Champagne and another nod to Southern flavors via the pimento cheese. Served inside a garden jar along with fresh-fried chicharrones, the pimento was rich, chunky and addictive. It deserves an Outstanding Chef nod of its own accord.
18603 La Cantera Terrace, 598-2950, eilanhotel.com/dining/dining-rooms
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