Two recent lunches during Culinaria’s Restaurant Week illustrate what bargains can be had during this week-long celebration. Think about it: You get a three-course meal for $15. When was the last time you paid that for fine food?
At Zinc Bistro & Bar, some friends and I settled in among the attorneys and downtown professionals having their power lunches to enjoy a three-course menu that will largely vary by the day on which you visit.
You can choose a cup of the day’s soup or the house salad. Either should be a good choice, if you have the luck we had. The soup that day was a curried tomato with plenty of spice and a complex series of spices bolstering the fresh tomato flavor. The Zinc Salad featured a lively mix of greens, grape tomatoes, nuts, pears and goat cheese tossed in a bright orange sherry vinaigrette.
As good as both of these dishes were, they couldn’t hold a candle to the day’s special, which was meatloaf with a mushroom-laden sauce. If you’ve had Zinc’s burger, known as the “crack burger” to its addicted following, then you might consider this the meatloaf equivalent. It was that rewarding. Credit also goes to a healthy array of vegetables and starches on the side, including pan-fried potatoes with blue cheese crumbles, roasted red pepper, cooked red onion and sauteed yellow squash. If Zinc ever features this again as a special, don’t think twice; just order two helpings and have at them both with gusto.
Dessert was listed as a peach cobbler, but it was more like a rustic cupcake with peaches baked in. The batter was suffused with warm spices that offered the promise of cooler fall temperatures to come, and it left a smile filled with the pleasure that comes from something made with love.
Chez Vatel & Bistro had a chalkboard full of options and, since we were early, a couple of unadvertised specials. So, before the restaurant filled up, we started with a comforting bowl of seafood chowder, a refreshing vichyssoise and a salad tossed in a basil vinaigrette that let the herb, not the vinegar, dress the greens in flavor.
From the main course options, we feasted on skate that practically melted on the tongue, braised pork butt that was tender, and chicken served up with a welcome helping of house-made pasta. The big surprise was how good the vegetables were. Once again, there was a generous array that included snow peas, carrots, broccoli, broiled tomatoes and french fries that approached perfection. The vegetables varied from plate to plate, but all were fresh in a way that really satisfied. So much so, in fact, that this diehard carnivore will give chef Damien Watel’s vegetarian plate serious consideration the next time I’m there.
Dessert was the French classic, Far Breton, a prune flan-style cake that arrived with a gorgeous splash of color on the side , thanks to berries, creme anglaise and a coulis. Beautiful as it was, it was no match for our forks. No trace of it was left behind.
It was yet another reminder why fans of the restaurant have voted Chez Vatel & Bistro the No. 1 restaurant in San Antonio in the recent Zagat guide.
Culinaria’s Restaurant Week continues through Saturday. Several restaurants have announced extensions, including Kirby’s Prime Steakhouse, Arcade Midtown Kitchen, the Boiler House, Tre Trattoria Alamo Heights and Umai Mi.
Zinc Bistro & Bar
207 North Presa St.
Chez Vatel & Bistro
218 E. Olmos