It’s hard to figure out where Texas cooking is headed right now. There are a lot of different trends going on and they have little to do with each other. In fact, sometimes it seems like the chefs in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and Austin arrived here from different planets. In this series, I’ll check out food from some hot Texas chefs and look for clues about the big picture.
The title on the menu at the new restaurant in the Elian Hotel in the Hill Country outside of San Antonio reads: “Sustenio, Modern Southwestern Cuisine by Stephan Pyles.” The test tube full of melon puree had a capsule inside that exploded in my mouth as I drank it–it was melon juice. The flavor reminded me it would soon be time for Pecos cantaloupes. The crispy-skinned arctic char with creamy rutabaga puree, freeze-dried banana chunks and a glazed apple slice with a perfect star in the middle was wonderful. Though it brought to mind the question that restaurant critics and chefs in Texas used to grapple with: “What makes this dish ‘Southwestern?'”