Opt for the bar, that’s our suggestion. The Roaring Fork main dining room seems better suited to groups and families, but the bar provides some good couples-scaled seating. Besides, if your waitress’s watch is running a tad late (wink, wink), you may just make it in time for the 7 p.m. happy hour cutoff. Suggestion number two: The martinis (gin, please) are better than the house margaritas. There is a kind of corporate vibe about the Fork, but it’s just that sort of slickness that brings us to suggestion number three: Put on duds that might seem just a little too, er, fashion-forward for most local hangouts. When the opportunity presents itself, we say, go for it. Yes, we know that San Antonio is a casual city and generally are perfectly happy with that, but something swell does nobody any good hanging in a closet — just like that bottle of wine you have been saving for a special occasion. Drink it!
The wine we picked from RF’s list was not one with airs, however; the 2008 Famiglia Bianchi Malbec was a good, workhorse red with lots of berry-flavored body and a reasonable price tag. It was a happy camper with the appetizer duck crêpe sauced with whole, not-too-sweet cherries. A good, crunchy slaw added textural appeal, and the duck itself almost didn’t need its mushroom ragu. Save back a little bit of your martini to go with a lighter appetizer such as the fried avocado and crab. A lack of salt was the only issue here; the crumb-coated avocado was otherwise a perfectly polite companion to the good crab in a spicy remoulade. According to Dining Companion, the Big Ass Burger with poblano, cheddar and smoked pepper bacon really is worth its $13 price tag, but, ambitiously attired as we were, a burger seemed to lack its own ambition and present danger all at the same time. Braised beef short ribs to the rescue; they offered the possibility of a good wine pair and were just pushy enough with accompaniments of tomato jam and horseradish-spiked potatoes. The kitchen might have pushed just a tad more with the “jam”; it came across as a sweet relish of uncertain texture. And, gluttons for sensation that we are, we could have tolerated more horseradish (or a better distribution of it) in the potatoes. But the ribs themselves were big, meaty, good — and, yes, fine with the wine. The slow-roasted pork shoulder carnitas are served with flour tortillas that you may safely ignore. Carnitas are a risky venture for a corporate kitchen in a city with a tradition of serving them in less-slick settings. But though the accompanying cilantro rice was a little boring, the black beans had very good flavor, and the generous serving of pork had nothing to be ashamed of. Among other house specials also can be counted Dr. Pepper baby back ribs and cedar-planked salmon; from the wood-fired rotisserie comes a spit-roasted chicken and the RF mixed grill with filet, duck confit, Elgin sausage and stuffed shrimp, a combination that takes surf and turf to entirely new levels.
After the usual protests, DC and I usually give in and split a dessert — in this case an ancho chocolate torte. It was handsomely presented, almost dauntingly dense and unstintingly chocolatey. But any intimations of ancho were well-suppressed at best. The very good berry coulis that shared the plate fortunately saved the day. Or night.
Note that RF offers a Sunday special of hickory-smoked prime rib and half-price bottles of wine and that members of the military are given a 15-percent discount with identification — no uniform required. Though that can be another way of looking classy