Mint Lounge Bar
- Carly Sorensen and Nick Gibbs
For those who haven’t been before, Mint Lounge is a gorgeous gem of a place nestled next to Mambo on San Antonio’s sunset strip. Open from midday, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a lazy lunch or sip on one of their delicious cocktails on the wood decked terrace and gaze across the sparkling Mediterranean sea as a gentle breeze drifts in and warm sunshine soothes your soul. I’ve even seen dolphins playing just outside a couple of times and the sunsets are pretty impressive as well. As locations go, it’s damn near perfect.
However, there’s much more to Mint than it’s stunning location. They have a delicious and great value Menu del Dia and a mouth watering a la carte menu with something to suit all palates, including a fantastic vegetarian range. There are sumptuous starters such as gooey gorgonzola croquettes, crunchy popcorn chicken, plump mussels in marinera sauce and juicy caprese salad, a wide range of inspired and creative salads, speciality pastas ranging from a tagliatelle twist on a classic bolognese to fresh seafood linguine and a rigatoni tartufo (rigatoni pasta in a truffle and asparagus cream sauce with parmesan) which I’m reliably informed is out of this world. For mains they carry a diverse and delicious freshly made pizza menu offering traditional classics such as four cheese or barbecue alongside more unusual flavour combinations like pear and gorgonzola or the salmon, leek, spring onion and cream cheese topped Nordic. On top of this are lovingly prepared fish, meat and vegetarian dishes and an impressive array of home made desserts, all with unique touches from the hand of head chef Lorenzo Melocchi.
When I tell you Lorenzo is Italian, you will probably instantly understand his creative and varied menu. Passion about food is about as synonymous with Italians as tea drinking is with us Brits. I had high hopes for Lorenzo’s food as he came and spoke to us about his menu, identifying his personal favourites and letting us in on a few tricks of his trade, which I’ll reveal a little later. He spoke enthusiastically and proudly of sourcing the best ingredients, trying to use local produce as much as possible, enjoying experimenting with flavours and wanting to make the plates aesthetically pleasing as well as tasty. Having now tried several of his dishes, I can confirm that he has every right to this pride and enthusiasm, the man is truly gifted in the kitchen. We plumped for two of his personal favourites; a goats cheese salad and salmon fillet with veg, and sipped our drinks in the sun as he went off to cook for us.
First to arrive was the goats cheese salad, but this was no ordinary goats cheese salad, this was a Lorenzo Melocchi goats cheese salad. Just as he’d promised, it looked incredible. Golden toasted goats cheese rounds, plump, deep purple blackberries, sweet blueberries and juicy pink raspberries, crunchy croutons and sticky brown sweet onion and balsamic chutney sat atop a bed of green baby spinach. The piece de resistance of this dish for me though was the pear, which Lorenzo had vacuum bagged in red wine and spices and marinated before slicing to add to the dish. It had taken on the same deep pinkish purple as a beetroot and absorbed the red wine and cinnamon flavours perfectly. It was as colourful and good looking a salad as I’d ever seen, but the flavours, oh my, the flavours! Every forkful brought a new taste combination, the creamy cheese with the sweet pear and sharp berries was just sublime. And the crunchiness of the croutons contrasted beautifully with the smooth stickiness of the chutney. It was a culinary marvel.
Shortly after we’d finished the salad, the equally colourful and creative salmon arrived. A crispy edged pink fillet with roasted green asparagus spears, grilled red vine tomatoes, golden roasted baby potatoes and a generous smear of bright pink beetroot hummus sat before us on a black plate, sprinkled with crystals of sea salt and crushed pink peppercorns. Again, it was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. And again, it was Lorenzo’s creative flair which stole the show, this time the homemade beetroot hummus to which he’d added curry powder, really bringing out the earthy sweetness of the beetroot. I’d never have imagined putting beetroot or curry powder in a hummus let alone thought to serve it with a salmon dish, but that’s why I’m not a chef and Lorenzo is. Inspired and bang on in terms of flavour.
Finally came dessert. A dessert I almost turned down as I was feeling pretty full. A decision I probably would have regretted for the rest of my life. Because dessert was out of this world. Truly sublime.
Lorenzo had recommended the home made cheesecake and cheesecake has been my favourite dessert since I was a kid, so I had to try it. Once more, it was visually spectacular. A thick, biscuit base topped with a good two inches of cream coloured filling and finished off with mixed fresh berries and coulis oozing down the sides. I was salivating as soon as it came out and really had to fight the urge to shove my camera wielding companion aside as he photographed it so I could just dig straight on in. That first bite (and the following six or seven) was heaven. Crunchy, buttery biscuit, light, fluffy creamy cheese and sharp but sweet berries performed a symphony of sensuous scrumptiousness in my mouth. My only regret was that we’d ordered one to share and not one each. I think I could have eaten the entire cheesecake and collapsed in a coma of contented over indulgence. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe just how good that cheesecake is. My mouth is watering just typing this now….