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Monday, January 13, 2014

Dinner at NAO-San Antonio

The Pearl is one of many urban revitalization projects in San Antonio, TX. This was discussed in a previous Post. In at nutshell, a 23 acre parcel of land in San Antonio that at one time was headquarters for the Pearl Brewing Company has been redeveloped into a mixed residential/commercial space.
One of the commercial tenants is the premier cooking school in the United States, The Culinary Institute of America (CIA).

They have 3 campuses in the United States, and one in Singapore. Both associates and bachelor's degrees are offered in a variety of food specialties depending on the location.
Each branch of the CIA has their own Restaurant(s) where students train for both the back and front ends of the restaurant business.
At the San Antonio campus, the restaurant is named NAO.

It prepares cuisine, for the most part, inspired by Latin America.

They have a very nice outdoor
and indoor dining space.

Here were the menus that evening (sorry for the quality of the photos!).
 We started off with our server bringing us Pao de Queijo, a Brazilian cheese bread and chips.

An order of Jicama tacos was placed for the table. The shells were made from jicama. These were filled with avocado, cucumber, pineapple, cilantro and salsa. They had a very strong citrus note, being characterized as "bright".

Dining companion one (DC1) ordered a very interesting cocktail, a "Thai Fighter".
It is a combination of tequila, Watermelon Shrub, grapefruit and Thai Basil. Shrubs are concentrated syrups made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Originally they predated refrigeration and have been reintroduced into modern times due to the cocktail-craft movement.

I am a big fan of Pork Belly so I ordered the pork belly Mote.
Mote are grains boiled in water made alkaline by the addition of wood ash, common in South American countries. This is mainly done to remove the outer shell of the grain.
The pork belly was prepared as a Confit, an ancient food preservation method.
The dish also included creamed Taro root, and Queso Fresco Foam. In modern times foams are natural flavors mixed with a stabilizing agent such as Lecithin and whipped. As foams have no substance, they allow cooks to modify the flavor of a dish without altering it's physical composition.
The dish was more like a stew, and was quite Savory.

DC1 decided on the Spanish Caribbean tasting menu.

Conch and Mangu (mashed plantains) started off the tasting

followed by Mojo grilled swordfish.

DC2 ordered the orange-cumin pork. It was very good.

I am a big fan of Short Ribs, so that is what I ordered.
This was served on a bed of Saffron-flavored Semolina and peas. The pea sprout garnish was a nice touch.

To finish off all of this overindulgence DC1 ordered the mango Cobbler for dessert. Yikes!
It was really good but I just couldn't eat anymore.

Some liked parts of their meal more than others, but that is not to be unexpected. At the end of the day, this was really food that was not only utilitarian but also "High Art", served in a aesthetically pleasing setting by highly knowledgeable servers. It was a very nice ending for a visit with old friends, and I would eat here again without hesitation.

That's that for another review on forks.
312 Pearl Pkwy.
San Antonio, TX 78215
Nao on Urbanspoon
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