You have to appreciate a restaurant that’s name tells you what you should do with its food, especially when it’s as spot-on as Savor.
An active classroom within The Culinary Institute of America, San Antonio, Savor is the latest culinary offering to take root at The Pearl, what often seems to the be epicenter of San Antonio’s undeniably hot culinary scene. The city has after all been named a Creative City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization, only the second city in the U.S. to receive the recognition.
But back to what there is to savor at Savor. It’s a long list and it starts with how the intimate space is designed—allowing you to see the action in the kitchen. Your dinner is created and presented by advanced CIA students under the guidance of professional faculty, making for a truly unique and memorable meal. Open kitchens aren’t unusual, but there’s something about watching the culinary students honing their craft that turns the kitchen scene into a show.
The design at Savor is light, clean and airy, with open views of the kitchen. We weren’t the only table watching the food get plated and peeking as dishes made their way to tables. One guest even asked to have his picture taken with the kitchen as a backdrop.
The other thing to enjoy: everyone who works in the restaurant is a CIA student. From the staff greeting and seating you to the talent behind the bar and, of course, the folks churning out dish after terrific dish, they’re all students. Our waitperson explained that they do two-week rotations in each role, allowing them to see the restaurant business from both the front and the back of the house, culinary-speak that means in the kitchen and out with the guests. Chef Instructor Chef Uyen Pham is easily identified as the one wearing the toque and watching her instruct the students and check the plates before they go out was fascinating entertainment.
The dinner menu offers the option of three or four courses, prix-fixe, and features ingredients and techniques from around the world. You can build your meal any way you like, pairing Curried Carrot Soup, Tagliatelle with Red Pepper Flakes and Berkshire Pork Schnitzel to feel as if your passport should be stamped for a culinary world tour. If it sounds odd, tell your taste buds to trust you: they won’t be disappointed.
Each course offers four options and most dishes can be altered to be vegetarian, vegan or gluten-free, a nice touch that shows how well the menu was planned to accommodate the wide-ranging needs and tastes of today’s diners. I could have easily made a full meal of the Roasted Brussels and Cauliflower, but dove into the Sea Scallop and Saffron Risotto, my second course selection, with glee. I was worried that the number of courses would be too much, but the portion sizes are right on, allowing you to enjoy each course without being stuffed. The Mussels with Heirloom Tomatoes are fabulous and could easily be an appetizer or main course.
Based on the protein options in the third course, it’s definitely your main course. And every option is lovely: 35 Day Dry Aged Ribeye, Pan-Seared Spiced Red Snapper and Honey-Chili Roasted Chicken, paired with pak choy, glazed kumquats and fried rice for another culinary passport stamp.
Before we get to desserts and, trust me, you don’t want to stop at three courses, let’s talk beverages. Savor doesn’t skimp on options here, either, with a full bar that offers the same sort of show that you can enjoy in the open kitchen. The wine list is varied and affordable, and the staff knows the options well. Savor has even created three-course and four-course pairing options, giving you even more to enjoy. Another favorite is the Zero Proof menu, an array of non-alcoholic options that are fresh and flavorful. The Ginger Beer is a true zinger. After watching me try it and make what they called “Ginger Beer Face,” the staff offered to water it down, but the bite was perfect for my ginger-loving husband.
The only face you’ll make during the fourth course is a satisfied smile. The dessert options are surprising, with flavors that continue your culinary exploration. Dark Chocolate Balsamic Cake with Lemon-Basil Ice Cream is dreamy, while pairing coconut cake with popcorn and lime sounds odd, but after the culinary tour that a dinner at Savor provides, it makes sense. The Texas Citrus Semifreddo (pictured at the top of this article), featuring blood orange and a candied pecan crumble is topped off with a pecan brittle, making each bite a mix of textures and flavors that delight.
Whether you choose three or four courses, or want to enjoy beer, wine and cocktails paired with a fantastic bar menu, Savor is a terrific destination. So leave your passport at home, but let your taste buds explore the world and benefit CIA students: there’s no tipping, but a 20% service charge on your bill goes to support scholarships, student activities and to purchase chef’s jackets for commencement. Now that’s a sweet addition to any meal!
Cover photo courtesy Darren Abate
Dawn Robinette is an award-winning writer and communications expert based in San Antonio who enjoys finding new discoveries, revisiting old favorites and telling stories. Selected as a local expert by the San Antonio River Walk Association, she regularly writes for San Antonio Woman and Rio Magazine. You can also read more of her work at Alamo City Moms Blog.