When it first opened in 2012, Bite was an eclectic restaurant — filled with chef Lisa Watel-Astorga’s French-Chilean dishes, creative cocktails and unique pop-art — but the Southtown eatery has helped bridge the gap between familiar and modern dining in San Antonio with new talents and a recently expanded lunch menu.
“There’s more happening here, more traffic than ever and we’re seeing people who want to try [new foods and drinks] that are a little outside of the box,” Lisa said. “Since my husband [Chef Damien Watel] joined the kitchen, we’ve gotten to add more of our dishes and wines — French and Chilean — and the flavors work well together.”
Damien, who closed the doors to Chez Vatel Bistro in June, has brought over his extensive wine collection and added popular dishes like the Coq a Vin and the grilled quail with parmesan risotto.
“We change the menu nearly every week,” Damien said. “But we try to keep the crowd favorites like the [Bistro’s] sole and [Bite’s] lamb cigars because our regulars are looking for them, and there’s new people who are just hearing about us for the first time and want to try them as well.”
The chefs’ collaborative menu offers a more affordable (though price points still linger at$6-$22 for starters, $17-$27 for main courses and $6-$10 for dessert), yet elevated fine dining experience for young professionals, old friends and international visitors looking beyond the Riverwalk. Visitors can expect a warm welcome from one of the chefs or server Ray Martinez, longtime Bistro employee, as they listen to Édith Piaf and hear the daily specials.
Bite’s new starters include a smoky seared foie gras served with sweet apples and raspberries, lobster spring rolls, and beet and goat cheese cake — organic golden beets, sandwiched between layers of creamy goat cheese and paired with a side of fresh greens and tomatoes — available for less than $25.
Bigger lunch options include the colorful crabmeat risotto, made with fresh gulf seafood, flavorful stock and market-fresh vegetables; roasted Chilean sea bass, ropa sucia — steamed seafood, sausage and beans — as well as Damien’s funky and creative pasta dishes.
Diners can also look forward to French country bread, made fresh in-house daily. A number of pastries and sweets include creme brulee, pistachio gelato, lemon tarts, chocolate mousse and churros with ice cream.
Damien, who is looking to open a new restaurant location, is hoping to bring his dishes to the busy restaurant, but is ready to make classic French dishes accessible to new generations that are ready to learn about new foods and enjoy new culinary experiences.
“I was there nearly 20 years, but I’m not sure that 5 percent of the San Antonio population had even heard of Bistro Vatel,” Damien said. “In Southtown, there’s so many new people moving in, visiting for business conventions, young people who are moving back and want to find special places … This place is small, but there’s plenty of room for new people to come and enjoy.”
Bite is looking forward to welcoming new regulars and customers during Restaurant Week through August 26. “But it would be best to arrive early or make a reservation,” she said. See the menu here
Lisa cites her Chilean roots, as well as her time living and training as a chef in Houston, with driving her passion for great food, but she credits her kitchen stints in Denmark, Chile, Argentina, and Spain as the inspiration to continue evolving at Bite.
“Those connections help because they push me to keep looking for new ingredients and flavor combinations; things that people here haven’t seen,” Lisa said. “People are learning that Bite may be small, but it’s always something new.”
1012 S. Presa St., (210) 532-2551.