The wait is over for the debut of one of San Antonio’s most anticipated restaurants. Clementine, from former Lüke chef John Russ and his wife, well-known pastry chef Elise Russ, opens Tuesday, January 16, at 2195 NW Military Hwy. The Castle Hills restaurant, located in the former home of Rossini Italian Bistro, takes its cues from the American South, both in its warm approach to casual, family-style dining and in much of its cuisine.
Although not exactly fusion, the menu heavily leans on flavors from the Mediterranean and John’s native New Orleans. Spanish bacalao fritters, a staple of tapas bars, are reimagined as salt cod “tots” with tartar sauce. Hush puppies are paired with classic Middle Eastern ingredients labneh and sumac and Southern pantry staple pickled green tomatoes. And fried oysters are dressed with horseradish creme, kale, and grilled lemon.
Large platters of dishes, like swordfish in brown butter and caper beurre blanc, and slow-cooked short ribs with roasted new potatoes and bordelaise jus, are meant to be paired with sides like garlicky local greens, bok choy with a kabocha squash puree, and butter roasted trumpet mushrooms. There is also a pair of pastas including agnolotti (a cousin of ravioli) stuffed with fall gourds, and ricotta cavatelli tossed with broccoli pesto, pink peppercorns, and pecans.
Elise’s desserts are approachable, but use the same wide-ranging palate as the mains. A warm apple pie with vanilla bean ice cream will take care of less experimental eaters, while a ginger creme brulee with rum roasted pineapple and cardamom doughnuts paired with coffee ice cream and candied kumquat will indulge more adventurous diners.
If customers have trouble making up their minds, they can opt for the “Feed Me” option, which is just what it sounds like. For $48, diners can leave the decision making up to to the chef, who will cook a seasonal meal for the entire table (the whole party must opt in).
While cocktails are not available, the curated beer and wine selection will keep imbibers happy. The wine list has a special focus on bubbles (reportedly Elise’s favorite) and affordability. The majority of the bottles hover around $30, while a trio of selections (one sparkling, one red, and one white) are offered at $6 per glass.
The relaxing space, with pale woods and cool blue and gray tones, is the work of local architect (and longtime food critic) Ron Bechtol — the man behind several San Antonio projects including The Brooklynite, The Last Word, and Boudro’s. The interior is dominated by a large botanical mural drawn by Steven Noble and transferred to canvas by local tattoo artist Kelly Noble.
Clementine will be open for dinner Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm, and Friday-Saturday, 5-10 pm.