One of the hottest new spots in San Antonio, Sustenio restaurant is situated within the lavish Éilan Hotel, and is as committed to the fine dining experience as it is to farm-to-table sustainability. This merging of high-brow and humble worlds and passions, which Chef Stephan Pyles (who created the concept) and Executive Chef David Gilbert pull off with grace and innovation, sets the bar high for the evolution of eating in a modern world.
The interior and ambience of the Sustenio dining room definitely score high on the swank scale. Deep, earthy accents and funky lines and light fixtures against a wash of wood, white stone tile and glass seem to invoke the outdoors from the comfort of the indoors—there’s something that feels open-air about it.
The exhibition kitchen invites you into the cooking process, but doesn’t throw it in your face. Peer in as your pesto-marinated chicken pizza is pulled from the wood-fire oven ($12), catch a waft of the sinfully chocolatey Heaven & Hell cake ($12) as it bakes—or just glance in as the white-cloaked wizards work their magic and leave the rest to imagination. It is open, but not so open that you feel like you’re dining in the midst of kitchen chaos.
The founding principle behind Sustenio (aptly named), was to create a fine dining experience for and fueled by the local community. Not only does the restaurant use local producers and ingredients, they’re hoping to encourage continued growth within San Antonio’s food community, thus leading the way toward a more sustainable city within and without the restaurant’s walls.
Gilbert is quoted on the website as saying, “Our menu will evolve as the foods we are provided by local agriculture evolves. Sustenio will be a part of this community. We are very excited about this.” In a conversation with the San Antonio Express-News, Pyles said, “I don’t think we could have done Sustenio anywhere else because of how we’ve tied into the local farmers. I want Sustenio to belong to San Antonio.”
Currently, the menu features a few of Pyles’ classics (he has alluded to getting hate mail if he doesn’t offer his Southwestern Cesar Salad with jalapeño polenta croutons ($10) or tamale tart with roasted garlic custard ($14)) as well as several new dishes that combine traditional Latino influences with modern molecular technology and presentation.
A poblano-Asiago soup is served with golden pepper foam ($12); a crisped pork belly appetizer is accompanied by vanilla-scented grits and a green apple emulsion ($12). Flavor combinations are not limited to the Americas; a red snapper tamal is made with Thai Curry masa and served with caramelized banana ($28).
The menu also lends a creative, gourmet update to simple favorites like the club sandwich (rotisserie chicken and crispy pork belly with lemon cilantro aioli on a toasted ciabatta, $12) and eggs benedict (creamy poached eggs on buttermilk biscuits with a poblano hollandaise and Hawaiian red clay salt, $16).
The ceviche bar, an influence of Pyles’ Peruvian travels, takes Sustenio to another level in my mind. Not only does it invite the same intimacy (and freshness) of watching a sushi chef hand-roll your order, the diversity of ingredients and flavors enlightens the average diner to the versatility of this coastal dish. A few of the options (offered on their own for $10 or as part of a tasting): Honduran tuna with passion fruit and coconut, Ecuadorian rock shrimp with orange and popcorn, Bronzino with vanilla-roasted fennel.
As the residential restaurant for the hotel, you can even order Sustenio room service. It’s a welcome addition to the Central Texas dining scene, and a much-needed role model for the future of eating good with the whole community, and not just our own bellies, in mind.
Full disclosure: I attended a pre-opening press luncheon and received a one-night stay and complimentary breakfast for review. No other compensation from Sustenio or the Éilan Hotel was received.
17103 La Cantera Pkwy.
San Antonio, TX 78256
Elizarraras, J. (2012, January 18). A Conversation With Stephan Pyles of Sustenio. Retrieved from: http://www.mysanantonio.com/life/food/restaurants/article/A-Conversation-With-Stephan-Pyles-of-Sustenio-2494192.php#ixzz1zVFA6Mmv