Pie in the sky 

Silo 1604’s contemporary, elegant interior was designed by Davis Sprinkle. Chef Gus Ortiz reprises his Austin Highway role. Photo by Antonio Padilla.

Silo Elevated Cuisine 1604
434 N. Loop 1604 West
483-8989
5-11pm nightly
Bar: 4:30-11pm Sun-Tue, 4:30pm-2am Wed-Sat
Credit Cards
Price Range: $18-$42
Accessible
Silo has sired a son, and the baby’s a big one. It seems to have hit the ground running, too—without much of the usual colic and with a full head of hair. OK, enough of that.

The general layout at Son of Silo confirms its parentage: bar downstairs, dining room upstairs, elevator between. Though there’s some schizophrenia between the two levels — the bar is all black with blocky red seating — the design, by architect Davis Sprinkle, is compelling: You enter past a tilted, Serra-like steel wall, ascend in a copper-clad elevator, and emerge into a light-filled space with a glass-enclosed wine room and an open kitchen as focal points. There seem to be servers in abundance, and they appear to know their stuff.

I expected more of the food. Not that it’s bad, mind you. Chef Gus Ortiz, who helmed the original Silo during the Bliss hiatus, is a talented guy, and his food on Austin Highway was rarely less than excellent. Here, however, though the plates are handsomely presented, there seems to be a missing spark. Maybe the kitchen just needs to “cure.” And maybe all the adjectives on the menu raise expectations too high.

My favorite dish of two visits was an appetizer plate of shrimp with applewood bacon served over grits with andouille and pepperjack cheese. Its “lemon jus roti” didn’t seem to play much of a part, but the dish was well-seasoned and satisfying. Strangely, it was served on the same plate as another starter, the duck confit “burrito,” making for a mingling that wasn’t ideal. Nothing wrong with the bogus burrito, really; the duck, many mushrooms, and maybe a few dried cherries are wrapped in a delicate, herbed crepe, somewhere there is a Port glaze, and the overall impression is pleasant enough. Just not exciting. Yes, I’d been hoping for excitement.

A split salad of arugula with prosciutto, toasted pine nuts, and shaved Romano in a balsamic vinaigrette did come on separate plates; but for the paucity of pine nuts, I had no complaints. But since even greater expectations accompany entrées, it’s not surprising that my disappointment was bigger, too. The seared sea scallops in a pool of saffron beurre blanc are carefully treated in a less-is-more manner — no big-gun flavors, but none would be appropriate. So we look to the accompaniments to balance the flavors, and here we found them lacking: not enough garlic in the sautéed spinach, not much flavor in the Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, and not much of anything in the marinated cherry tomatoes.

The grilled and braised Kurobuta pork shank aroused the most anticipation of any dish. In Japan, where it’s immensely popular, the Black Berkshire pig has acquired nearly the same status as Kobe beef, and it’s universally thought to be “pork with flavor.” Not to mention pork that’s scarce. The presentation was impressive, the texture was perfect, the color reddish as expected, but for all its grilling, braising, and glazing, the flavor simply wasn’t there — not in the pork, not in the ancho chile-dried cherry sauce — and not, for that matter, in the green chile orzo “mac & cheese.” Not noticeably chile-flecked and certainly not cheesy, the orzo, well-cooked as it was, simply came across as slippery. I liked it, but I don’t understand it.

Jozsef Ignacz, the former sommelier at Silo Austin Highway, is now hanging out here, which accounts for the prominent wine room, and for the presence of many Hungarian wines on the list. The swift service on a Tuesday night (other nights can be much slower and noisier, I’m told) only allowed time for a split bottle of pinot noir, but it did the job admirably.

There’s always time for at least one dessert, and the dark chocolate mousse with berries (five blueberries, but who’s counting) sent us out with a smile due to its deep flavor (yes!) and seductive texture.

Still in search of sabores, I returned at lunch and can report that the space looks even better in the daytime, when the transparencies are more apparent. A roasted-red-pepper soup of the day, garnished with chives and white truffle oil, wasn’t an improvement over the evening, however; most of its punch came from the easy-to-overuse truffle oil, which we all now know to be chemically created. Nor, for all its impeccable pecan coating, can I say much for the chicken served over a version of jambalaya that would make a Cajun cringe. (I actually liked this rice a lot, but jambalaya it’s not.) More of a very good sundried-tomato caper sauce might have saved the day, but it had been applied with a cautious hand.

Caution in a new market may be part of the issue; I understand the place to be thriving and not to be siphoning off much of the client base from the old location, so the kitchen is apparently doing more than something right. Maybe, then, my gripe is really with 1604. Still, I hate to see a talented chef holding back.

 


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