A co-worker and friend of mine, I call him JP, has exquisite taste in wines and knows all the best places to dine. His birthday was this past Friday and he had the opportunity to partake in the chef’s dinner at Bliss, Mark Bliss’ new restaurant in the trendy Southtown part of town. I haven’t had a chance to go to Bliss yet, but after reading JP’s review, we will definitely be making a reservation soon. JP knows everything about wine and since I know nothing about wine (other than I like it a lot), I thought his guest review would be a perfect addition to our list of reviews! Please enjoy JP’s review!
As the occasionally mentioned “co-worker” who recommends places to molo, she and I have talked about a guest appearance on her blog for several months. While molo is a bit more food-focused, my dining experiences revolve around wine more often than not. With a direct family connection to the retail wine business, a cellar of my own, and many friends with personal cellars, I have been lucky to taste some of the world’s best wines many times over. For the last two years my best wine-drinking buddy (MBWDB) and I have been trying to put together a vertical tasting of Cos D’Estournel, the classic 2nd growth Bordeaux from the St. Estephe region. We finally pulled it off for my birthday dinner at the Bliss chef’s table. Bliss, if you haven’t heard, is the newly opened restaurant by chef Mark Bliss, the original chef/owner of Silo. We are glad he is back!
So this will be partly a restaurant review and partly a bacchanal description. It’s not often we go this big, so it seemed like a great opportunity for a guest appearance on the blog. The chef’s table at Bliss is in the kitchen, just off to the side, and easily visible through a large window to other patrons taking a tour. I could see how some might feel like they are in a zoo exhibit, but we were too busy having fun to notice. The chef’s table holds 10, and there is a minimum of six to book it. We had nine. We went through 10 bottles of wine (but who’s counting). Bliss has a $20 corkage fee for BYOB. I have a strong bias for restaurants with corkage. Plus, MBWDB knows the chef. What could go wrong? Well…nothing, actually. It was as perfect as it could be.
White Wine Food
Since I don’t know how many you are that interested in wine, I’ll start with the food and then move to the wines. The chef’s table is normally billed as chef’s choice, but MBWDB talked to Mark beforehand to let him know the wines we were bringing so we could enhance the wine/food pairing. We started with a sampling of the Bliss Charcuterie which was a nice selection of San Daniele prosciutto (a nice throwback since we have visited San Daniele and ate plenty of this while there), finocchiona salami, hot coppa, queso de valdeon, manchego, la grien, Calabrian peppers, figs, cornichon, and marcona almonds. Yes, yes, all of this was nice enough, but this was just the warm-up. I was looking for awesomeness.
Our second course is where the brilliance of Mark Bliss’ cooking came alive with three little delicacies on one plate. The first item was a small slice of house cured wild salmon topped with heirloom tomato, avocado, and an herb salad. Yikes, was this good. In the middle was a BeauSoliel raw oyster on the half shell with a cucumber black pepper mignonette. This was the tastiest raw oyster I have ever had. Finally on the right was a butter poached lobster on top of Anson Mills grits, topped with a charred jalapeño lime buerre blanc sauce. Oh my. I couldn’t make my bites small enough to make it last. These all paired spectacularly well with the three Chardonnay wines we were tasting. As a side note, I told our guests at the start not to worry that they would drink too much. “Don’t drink the wines,” I said, “Just taste them and you’ll be fine…”
Then it became breakfast time with Mark’s version of bacon and egg. This was a sunny side up quail egg on top of duck bacon, which was on top of a house-made toasted brioche. Then he placed this little dollop of truffle “caviar” on the whole thing. Now I put caviar in quotes because it was actually vegan gelatin injected with black truffle oil (I had to ask). We started in on this, but then Mark surprised us by walking around the table with a small frying pan with seared foie gras. He was spooning out the melted foie gras fat over our bacon and egg dish. This addition just put this over the top for me. I am an avid fan of foie gras. If there was a food heaven…
Red Wine Food
The first time we were at Bliss a few weeks ago, my wife had a gnocchi dish which she raved about. This, then, was the only menu dish we
requested. It was a wise choice. Silo was always known for the bleu cheese gnocchi, but this version puts that dish to shame. The house-made potato gnocchi is pan roasted which browns the outside of the gnocchi. The pomodoro sauce coats the gnocchi, but the whole thing is topped with arugula, goat cheese, ripini, and aged balsamic. These flavors mesh together to form a palate-pleasing combination of wonderfulness. As we were enjoying this Mark surprised us again by passing around a plate of vegetarian risotto (also on the main menu). Once again, the black truffle graced our table. The risotto had porcini, morels, summer black truffles, the truffle caviar, sautéed pea shoots, with Parmesan cheese. Another big wow.
Our final main food course – yes, there was more – was grilled and roasted beef tenderloin topped with a piece of seared Hudson Valley grade “A” foie gras. Score! Accompanying this was perhaps the best potato gratin ever made (it was ridiculously good), baby asparagus, and a red wine shallot sauce. I lucked out here because we had a vegetarian at the table who willingly gave up her foie gras to me (score again!). You haven’t lived until you’ve had beef tenderloin topped with foie gras. Of all the fat flavorings there are (butter, duck fat, etc.), and I’ve probably had them all, nothing compares to that of foie gras.
This was a selection of various desserts from the normal menu offerings. All of these were exceptional. If you are new
to Bliss, I recommend the grapefruit tiramisu. It is unique. But we actually had to order an extra cheesecake dessert because it was in high demand. It’s made from goat cheese with a pistachio brittle. I had the chocolate dessert – a milk chocolate mousse with fluer de sel and dulce de leche, topped with little chunks of house-made caramel popcorn. We also had the cheese assortment plate.
Now here I will talk about the dessert wine I brought which was a 2000 Joh. Jos. Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Auslese. The Prüm wines are some of the best Riesling wines you will ever taste. Even though it was a 2000, the wine had that classic hint of effervescence which helps explode the flavors on the palate. This wine is built for aging, so
that’s why it was a Wine Spectator Collectible back when it was released. Liquid candy. In retrospect this would have gone well with the lobster dish.
Note on the wine service: The wine service at Bliss is awesome. Mario (our dedicated server) decanted all five reds. He offered fresh glasses for new wines. He sized the pours correctly to give everyone a taste (or two or three). He was great all night.
Dumol Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2009
Martinelli Charles Ranch Sonoma Coast Chardonnay 2008
Vincent Girardin Batard Montrachet Grand Cru 2006
Tasting Notes (from me, MBWDB, and a longtime wine distributor at table)
All three of these wines were uniquely flavored, and it was not easy to pick a favorite between us. In the end, the superlative nature of the Girardin won me over. The Martinelli, though, had a finish on it that lasted a good long while. It’s amazing how finely made white wine will evolve as it breathes. The lesson: Even white wine needs time to open up. The Dumol is a perennial favorite for me because I prefer clean Chardonnays to heavily oaked ones.
Chateau Cos D’Estournel St. Estephe 1999
Chateau Cos D’Estournel St. Estephe 2000
Chateau Cos D’Estournel St. Estephe 2001
Chateau Cos D’Estournel St. Estephe 2004
Les Forts de Latour Pauillac 2000 (2nd wine of 1st growthChateau Latour)
First, the Cos (note that the pronunciation of this wine is not “coe”; it is said just like it is written…Cos, which rhymes with the Las in Las Vegas).
1999 – I did not think this would show well, with 1999 being an off year, but I was surprised. Lots of earthiness and terroir. Very nice.
2000 – I expected much from this and got it. A complex nose with subtle flavors on the palate. It was all elegance and balance. Hints of briar and cigar box. This was my red wine of the night.
2001 – This was bright and more fruit-forward than the 2000. This is fine wine indeed.
2004 – We committed wine infanticide here. This was very youthful and tight. I may not pull another one out for 3-5 years. It is very good, but will be more approachable with age.
2000 Les Forts – This is a big wine, so MBWDB liked it best. He favors the loudly styled new world wines anyway. But the Les Forts had that typical Pauillac expression of pencil lead and smokiness that I have always loved. This is a great wine from a great year in Bordeaux.
The tenth bottle, for those who are counting, was a Denis Mortet Champagne we had at the start. I left that for the ladies so cannot comment on it, except to say it was handpicked for me at Saglimbeni Fine Wines – the best wine store in San Antonio.
If it needs to be said, my recommendation is to go as fast as you can to Bliss. They have great parking for a downtown restaurant, and the food, atmosphere, and service are all top notch. You may read other reviews (e.g. on Open Table) that complain about portion sizes, but the reality is that Bliss is fine dining. If you want large portions, then stick to Saltgrass or Cheesecake Factory. If you want a great culinary experience, then a place like Bliss is where you can find it.
Overall, a very high average rating is 9.0. Hard to be objective as it was a special occasion with good friends, great wines and a lot of attention from the chef. Not your normal visit.
926 S. Presa St.
San Antonio, TX 78210