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Food & Drink

Si Señor delivers the heart of Mexico with sophisticated dishes

Photo: Josh Huskin, License: N/A

Josh Huskin

Duck breast dressed in pipián sauce at Si Señor Grill.

The official name change has yet to take place, but it can't be long: Sonterra is destined to become Sonterrey, and we might as well get used to it. The recent influx of moneyed Mexicans is, in any case, bringing with it some distinct cultural advantages, not the least of which is food. But where San Antonio has always had Tex-Mex as its own hybrid cuisine, this isn't necessarily what recent arrivals are looking for. Places such as Dulce Vida, Vida Mia, Cielito Lindo, and Costa Pacifica are attempting to (mostly) ditch the comino in favor of dishes imported more directly from interior Mexico. Some attempts are more successful than others. Few are as ambitious — on paper — as Si Señor.

Si Señor Grill & Cantina's owners have previous experience with the Carlos'n Charlie's chain, though are not part of it, and anyone who has ever set foot in one of these spring break specials will immediately recognize thematic similarities. Here the shtick is sombreros and blown-up lotto cards on the ceiling and collages of the Mexican revolution and film stars on the walls. Surprisingly, it's not altogether annoying.

Si Señor's lunch menu does capitulate un poco to the non-nacional crowd. According to a waitress, locals do come in wanting nothing more than their Tex-Mex enchiladas, so management has thoughtfully provided them. The more adventuresome gringo (or later-arriving Sonterreyan) could choose from shredded beef salpicon or a salad with chicken breast in an ancho-tamarind glaze. Or they could order from the far more ambitious dinner menu.

Which is what I did on two occasions — both times being among the only diners in the house. Staff says that dinners can be slammed, however — especially on weekends; the food-curious, and those not addicted to crowds, are advised to take advantage of lunch. The salpicon, for example, is on both menus and is cheaper at mid-day — plus, it's assembled for you tableside.

This is more than one might expect from the casual nature of the surroundings, and if the result — marinated, shredded beef arranged atop romaine leaves with cubed potato, tomato, radish, avocado, onion, and a dressing of lemon, oil, and vinegar — isn't going to light any fires, it's a reasonable rendition of a dish that might have come straight out of Puebla.

Mixiotes are another classic dish that's scarce in these parts. Traditionally consisting of a filling such as lamb wrapped in the parchment-like membrane of an agave leaf, this dish is more often served in an envelope of parchment paper, which is how Si Señor does it, cutting open the steamy packet tableside. The filling consists of chicken, pork, and bony lamb in a well-flavored, achiote-tinged broth with green olives. The lamb bones make the mixiotes a little hard to eat with the good corn tortillas that are provided, but the accompanying rice, black beans, and creamy salsa verde all do their best to make the plate as a whole a unique experience.

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