CASTLE HILLS-Don't even think about going to Clementine looking for collard greens, hammocks, fried catfish or fried chicken. The restaurateurs who own the place specifically set out to showcase Southern cuisine beyond its traditional confines.
"And there's nothing wrong with those things," Chef John Russ said. " But we know that the south is not necessarily those things anymore."
The 39-year-old and wife Elise (Pastry chef) opened Clementine at 2195 NW Military Hwy less than a year ago.
"Clementine is a small neighborhood restaurant," Russ said. "It's a small little happy space in San Antonio."
The couple wanted to open the business in the Monte Vista community but destiny has them cooking in Castle Hills. During their search for the right place to take over or own, they saw a Clementine plant breaking through the crack of a sidewalk.
"We were like, 'well that would be a fun name for a restaurant,'" Russ said.
The citrus plant is not indigenous to San Antonio, much like their vision for Southern food. In fact, Russ calls their menu Southern "facing." Dishes that are Southern with a twist.
"It's a different take on those things," he said.
Clementine is not a vegan eatery. It does have hefty vegetable options on the menu. Carnivores, don't fret, because they do serve meat.
"We try to do things with the protein that makes sense," Russ said. "But not to be a protein-rich restaurant."
Russ used to work at Luke on the River Walk. His wife worked at Biga on the Banks. He is from New Orleans. She hails from Atlanta.
Clementine offers shrimp and grits cooked in whey and bacon gravy. There's also a New York strip from 44 Farms in Cameron, TX. The sea bass is flown in three times a week. Russ said the duck confit is reminiscent of a grandmother's chicken and dumplings.
Team Clementine wants to reach the palates of customers who may not be considered traditionally Southern. Pockets of Ethiopians, Vietnamese and the customers from the Middle East who live in the south, for instance. The restaurant wants their food to be an extension to their guests.
"Our hush puppies are the classic hush puppy you would see everywhere else in the south or those coastal communities but it's got split chick peas in it," he said.
The thought behind this forward-thinking Southern cuisine was enough to make Neighborhood Eats hungry. Clementine provided a taste test starting with a white mushroom salad.
It comes with mushrooms, parsley, pomegranates, pecorino cheese, mild lemon juice, olive oil and light dressing. Delicious!
Ricotta cavetelli was the next offering with its broccoli pesto, peppercorns, Sichuan peppers, toasted pecans and shaved parmesan cheese. Good.
The popular Ms.Julie's beets with fresh herbs, no granola, blue cheese, aged balsamic and olive oil. Delicious!
The Mediterranean sea bass or branzino topped with summer squash salad, grilled lemon, marcano almonds and pecorino cheese. ¡Qué rico!
For dessert, the chocolate Clementine crunch bar with Clementine mousse, sherbet, candied hazelnuts and fresh mandarin. Sensational!
That's it for this week's edition of Neighborhood Eats. If you have a recommendation for Marvin send him an email (Mhurst@kens5.com), tweet (@Mhurstkens5) or post it to his Facebook page. #KENS5EATS