Last Thursday, October 18th, we had, after appointments with our ophthalmologist and shopping at Costco‘s [more about that in a future posting] our dinner at the Mesón European Restaurant in San Antonio. As to the name: I don’t know if it has been derived from the French “maison” – no idea. The cuisine, if that’s a measure to go by, certainly makes one think it’s the case. It is definitely not “European” – whatever that might be as Europe is culturally and culinary much too diversified to have something like a “European cuisine“. And even if “mesón” – to the best of my knowledge – is Spanish for “house”, this excellent restaurant does not offer Spanish cuisine.
We had discovered this restaurant on earlier shopping trips to Costco’s: we pass it on our way there, just before we turn onto the Costco parking lot. A further recommendation was the fact that we have a discount card [more about that in another posting] issued by the TV station KLRN that gives us a 15% discount for suppers at the restaurant. The Mesón has a pleasant, slightly upscale and dignified ambiance: the room is not brightly lit but has a slightly subdued lighting, an atmospheric low music is playing in the background, and there is no television set – something that, unfortunately, can sometimes be found even in upscale restaurants hereabouts. The tables were, as they should be, laid: silver cutlery was laid out a nicely folded linen napkin, and the wine and water glasses were ready.
The Mesón does not have too extensive a menu, but a very exquisite one, plus an excellent service: the personnel is omnipresent, but unobtrusive [our server, btw, did not even introduce himself, as is otherwise usual here in the US, by name]. On the other hand, some might see this as a negative. Our only item to be criticized: the candle on our table was not lit – but then, that’s not really worth mentioning. We could have asked for that. What really stood out and what we really appreciated [I know, that’s a pet peeve of mine as to American restaurants and their service, but all the more I want to mention this as positive for the Mesón]: we were given enough time for everything – enough time to calmly sit down and get accustomed to the pleasant atmosphere. Not that we had to wait long, not at all, time until we were brought our water and the dinner and wine menus was exactly right: excellent timing. And having delivered water and the menus, the waiter withdrew without immediately asking what we wanted to drink, before – as it happens nearly always hereabouts even in upscale restaurants – we had even had the time to open the wine menu, let alone decide on our food and thus being able to select a wine that would go with it. We were served freshly baked – and very hot – bread rolls with butter while we were still looking at the menus.
After our appetizers the main courses were brought to our table at a well-measured interval, which again means we were not rushed, and they were brought covered with silver lids. After we had finished one course, the empty plates were not whisked away the very moment the cutlery was put down [so that one might get the impression the waiter had been waiting in the starting-blocks and was happy that the guest had finished his course] but still promptly.
And now our choices for our supper:
Mary had the soup of the day, a creamy potato soup, for starters, and then a charbroiled New York Strip steak with Sauce Bearnaise, served on the side, and boiled red potatoes.
I had a traditional French onion soup, done as it’s supposed to be, with a slice of toast and melted cheese on top, as an appetizer, and a dill-marinaded charbroiled Norwegian salmon, also with Sauce Bearnaise on the side. As my side I opted for linguini instead of potatoes.
Mary’s potato soup was really creamy, and my onion soup had plenty of well-cooked onions which still had a nice bite on them. If there’s anything one might want to criticize it’s the fact that the cook might have been just a tad too free with the salt. But then, that’s more or less a personal opinion: it was not too much for my liking. Mary’s steak was not a small one, and it was done exactly to the point [she had ordered it “medium”]: well-cooked, but still slightly pink in the middle, and leaving a slightly pinkish juice on the plate. The mixed vegetables we were served as a side were also cooked exactly to the point: with a nice bite but very juicy. My linguini were the tastiest I’ve ever had so far: cooked “al dente” in slightly salted water and the tossed in an exquisitely tasting olive oil. My salmon was, as the menu had said, marinaded in dill, but that taste was just a bare hint in the background, while the taste of charbroiling predominated. The filet was – as was Mary’s steak – not too little a portion, and also perfectly done: still flaky and with a bite, but also fantastically juicy. It would have been great even without the Sauce Bearnaise, but this sauce did not in the least diminish the excellent taste of the charbroiled fish but enhanced it even more.
As to the size of the portions: they were not “Texas size big”, and possibly not even “American size big”, but “European big” – not “European” as in the modern French cuisine where the food is quite often artistically arranged on the plates so that you have no difficulties in finding it ;) but it was exactly the right amount, which was filling, but not overly so, so that there was still some room for a dessert – even if we didn’t opt for one [very likely the next time at the Mesón, though, as the choices were indeed tempting].
The wine menu was one with a lot of choices and not too expensive but appropriate. And the pricing of the food was, let me put it that way, middle-upscale: absolutely adequate for what we got and how it was served in such a restaurant.
To conclude: the Mesón is a restaurant to definitely be recommended and one that’ll certainly see us again – perhaps even soon.
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