There’s a few celebrity chefs I truly admire for their culinary creations. Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver and John Besh.
We’ve eaten in many of Batali’s restaurants and have his collection of cookbooks and we have all of Jamie’s cookbooks as well. While I do not have John’s new cookbook, I have made several of his recipes and especially love this one. So I was quite intrigued at being invited to a pre-preview event of Chef John Besh’s new restaurant opening in San Antonio.
John Besh is opening a second Lüke Restaurant at the new Embassy Suites hotel on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. Now, John Besh will not be in the kitchen all the time, but I was told he was expected to visit on occasion. While the opening is not likely until the first of November, there were a few media events this week to create a little buzz.
And buzz it created.
When I arrived, I was given a glass (albeit a plastic glass) of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This definitely made me think the evening was off to a good start.
Then we perused the food station and saw they were making shrimp and grits. Mascarpone grits no less. While conceptually, the mascarpone grits are a great idea, these were lumpy and needed salt.
The team of chefs also offered several different sausages including wild boar sausage, garlic sausage and a bratwurst. These were accompanied by a grainy mustard, homemade bread and butter pickles which were very good, pickled watermelon rind and pickled radishes. They also had, according to David, “great fried quail” which they served with a sauce and a drizzle of Texas honey. Although the email I received outlining the menu promised sauerkraut, there was none to be had. (I really love sauerkraut and was looking forward to tasting their rendition.)
As would be expected of a restaurant group based in New Orleans, bread pudding was dessert. And it was good. Creamy, decadent and delicious. Everyone cleaned their bowls. Plastic bowls.
We got to meet the culinary and management team, most of whom are named some form of Steve. Like Stevie, Stephen and then there’s a manager Stephen Jeffcoat. There’s also the General Manager Victor and another manager Bennie whom I have been told will be changing their names to Steve.
The Sous Chef Stephen Rodriguez is glad to be back home. He is a native Bandera boy and has been with John Besh Restaurants for 4 years. The Executive Chef, Steven McHugh, is now responsible for this Lüke as well as the one in New Orleans, so he will likely be doing a bit of traveling as this new location finds its legs.
Honestly, the team seems quite knowledgeable and we had fun meeting other foodies and food bloggers who attended. I got to meet Krys T. of San Antonio’s Yelp. It’s always funny to meet someone and then recognize them from Twitter. This was the case for Krys T. and I. We sat with Jeremy Banas, who is a beer connoisseur and has Ruination Press: An Adventure in Beer blog.
After sampling the food and visiting with a few people, we were offered a tour of the restaurant. Victor, the GM, showed off this sprawling 370-seat, three-story restaurant with an open kitchen and what appears could be a really fabulous bar. There’s going to be plenty of outdoor seating and the third floor rooftop venue will be available for special events. While we did not make it to the roof, I can only imagine what a great view it will have.
While on the tour, we met Chef Josh Cross. He owns Oloroso in the King William District and we have heard great things about his cuisine, although I am embarrassed to say we have not yet been there. David, Josh and I could have talked all night. Like us, he has spent much time in Mexico and we lamented the country’s downward spiral.
Josh also spent 10 years in New York working for the top chefs including Alain Ducasse, Jean-George, Tom Colicchio and even opened one of our favorite restaurants, Esca, a Mario Batali collaboration with Dave Pasternack, whose tuna meatballs we made and shared the recipe in a previous post.
But I digress. All in all, it was a nice evening. I won’t belabor the fact that the napkins they offered were cocktail napkins, that there was no sauerkraut, that the grits had no flavor and were lumpy and that we ate off of plastic ware.
Obviously, the conditions for this event were challenging as it was held outside and the food was prepared in someone else’s kitchen. However, we look forward to this new arrival on the SA culinary scene. David is definitely ready to go as Victor promised to buy him his first hamburger at Lüke’s. And we know what a fiend David is for a great burger.
We also look forward to going to Oloroso and hanging out with Josh who promised to make us the salt-crusted branzino al estilo Esca.