Chef Johnny Hernandez, San Antonio’s busy-bee chef turning the city on to some of the best authentic regional Mexican food, has launched a monthly brunch series. The second Sunday of every month, a traditional Mexican brunch will be offered at his newly opened special-events space in Southtown, Casa Hernan. I was fortunate to attend a trial run for the sake of his newly-built barbacoa pits.
Adorned with Mexican art and sprinkled with a treasure trove of handicrafts from artisans of which Chef Johnny has forged deep relationships with, the venue is light-flooded and elegant. The wide pine slab floors add a rustic feel, and add-on slivers of wood filling some gaps in between are reminders of the open space’s previous life as a woodworks studio. Just out back is Chef Johnny’s nearly complete outdoor kitchen with two wide comals and two barbacoa pits. Casa Hernan has the perfect atmosphere to enjoy the diverse flavors of Mexico’s regions.
Offerings of the brunch started with mimosas and a fresh fruit, honey granola, and mild yogurt parfait. A fresh and energizing start. Then the buffet bonanza commenced. Main dishes were huevos perditos (scrambled eggs “lost” in a sauce of tomatoes and chile ancho), chilaquiles with salsa verde, and pork adobo tamales wrapped in banana leaves. All snug dishes that Chef Johnny lovingly chose to showcase some of his favorite early-day Mexican flavors. As for the stars of the show, there was lamb barbacoa and grilled chicken served in thick white corn tortillas made on the spot, along with the salty lamb broth made of its drippings ladled in a side bowl to dip the taco and to infuse even more flavor. To that, there was a taco bar of condiments such as cilantro, diced onion, thinly sliced radishes, roasted salsas, and guacamole. Beverages were guayaba and watermelon aqua frescas, and Mexican coffee with cinnamon and piloncillo. A colorful variety of well-crafted pan dulce tapered the meal off. It was truly a well-crafted and transporting experience right down to the creamy black beans and pretty hand-painted dishware. Domingos at Casa Hernan is a feast in every sense.
For the most part, Chef Johnny plans to be at the helm of the brunches, but he will have guest chefs rotating as well. This is the case for the first two in fact: On October 14, Chef Susana Trilling of Oaxaca, Mexico, renowned chef, instructor, and Oaxacan cooking expert, will host a Oaxacan-style brunch. On November 11, Chef Jhojans Priego Zarate of Veracruz, Mexico, corporate chef for Mariscos Villa Rica, will host a brunch typical of Veracruz. Prices are still to be determined, but will likely be around $40. For reservations, visit casahernan.com.