I think hotel restaurants often get a bad rap. So it was my mission when I recently visited San Antonio to eat in at least one hotel-based resto, and what better place to do so than at the beautiful Mokara Hotel & Spa, seated right along the city’s River Walk?
It doesn’t matter whether or not you’re a guest at the Mokara Hotel & Spa — Ostra doesn’t feel like you’ve walked through hotel corridors to get to it. It feels more like you’ve stumbled across it after taking a San Antonio Rio river cruise.
The option for both indoor or outdoor seating is important to note. Here’s why: the River Walk is really some of the most incredible eye candy and being able to sit just feet from it, overlooking stone bridges and ducklings wandering out of the water, is pretty magical. But — and you must hear this if you plan to travel to the southwest in July or August — San Antonio can be scorching hot, so being able to pop indoors for a meal with the refreshing forced breeze of a commercial air conditioner is heavenly. Just sit by the window so you still get the view.
I love a good wine list, and Ostra delivers. There’s nothing worse than seeing a wine that looks really lovely only to discover that it’s sold only by the bottle. I was delighted to find that there were a few great reds by the glass, and after checking with our server to ensure that the one I planned to order would “kick me in the back of the throat” (my standing definition of what a bold, dry, good wine tastes like going down), I must say that the Joseph Carr cab from Napa Valley did not disappoint. In fact, it was probably my favourite vino throughout our trip, and I took a picture of the wine menu so I can try and track down a bottle (erm…case…) here in Ontario.
Food at Ostra provides good value for money. Don’t expect cuisine like you might find at an indie restaurant in San Antonio (like Bliss), but for a reasonably priced meal, you do get to experience some of the handiwork of Chef Ben Knack from renowned restaurant Las Canarias just across the river at the Omni La Mansion del Rio.
The east coast oysters that our server recommended were truly some of the best I’ve ever eaten. I ordered six and wish I’d doubled it and made it my main meal! They were served with chimichurri, which I adore, so that helps. My mom had never tried oysters before, so these were the ideal introduction — though I did warn her that all oysters are not created equal.
The crab cake nestled inside the crab cake sandwich was ALL CRAB. No filler in this bad boy. It was meaty and crabby and All Things Good. (So good that the brioche bun actually detracted from it.)
The coleslaw was a standout. It had a bit of heat to it, which set off the overall flavour beautifully and was neither too vinegar-y or too creamy and thankfully wasn’t swimming in juice of any kind as so many coleslaws do. I could have eaten a second serving quite happily.
Both desserts we tried (the Valrhona chocolate mousse cake and warm bread pudding) were excellent, but the prize goes to the warm bread pudding paired with its tasty whiskey anglaise. If you’ve ever had the typical sauce that comes with bread pudding (which I have, several times, because I do tend to order bread pudding if it’s on the menu), you know that it’s usually so sweet that anything more than a dollop is enough to pop a cavity on the spot. Not so with the whiskey anglaise; while you don’t taste even a hint of whiskey, it does obviously cut the sweetness and create a really smooth decadence on the palate. And in saying that, I have to make the argument that the bread pudding was the best thing we ate through our entire meal at Ostra. It really was divine.
The parmesan fries fell flat. They were barely seasoned with anything resembling parmesan, and they didn’t have any oomph to them. In a lineup of parmesan fries, they were so unremarkable that I’d never remember them.
I was super excited for my redfish tacos with grilled pineapple relish. Well, thank goodness for that relish or these would have been nearly devoid of flavour. I’m a huge fish taco fan and these did nothing for me. I will forever regret not ordering the southwestern mac and cheese.
The charcuterie platter was just OK. There was one meat that was quite different and tasty, but overall the selection was minimal and nothing to write home about. One triangle of cheese does not a charcuterie platter make. (I will say, however, that the bread that came with it was delicious.)