Friday, December 16, 2011

niche (4) - st. louis, mo
1831 sidney street
st. louis, mo 63104

pics only this time...i have reviewed niche three times previously (1,2,3), so check out those reviews if you are not familiar with this fantastic restaurant.

maple custard - roasted mushrooms, bonito caviar
scarpetta pinot nero brut rose


chili flake focaccia

lobster - pullman, celery, tarragon, togarashi hollandaise
schramsberg chardonnay blance de blancs


day boat scallops - french horn, shiitake, cocoa nib, walnut, lemon, juniper
proprieta sperino nebbiolo 2007


lavender sorbet

beef and onions - candied onion, onion jam, soubise, pommes aligot
corteforte corvina/rondinella/molinara 2007

pommes aligot

squash bread pudding - acorn, butternut, maple, ginger, marshmallow
chambers rutherglen muscat

Thursday, December 8, 2011

sidney street cafe (2) - st. louis, mo
2000 sidney street
st. louis, mo 63104

after celebrating my birthday at chef/owner kevin nashan's sidney street cafe back in january, the restaurant slipped to the back of my mind for some reason. while i definitely enjoyed my first experience at the benton park restaurant, nothing i had was so good that i felt allocating my dining dollars to a return visit over some place new was justifiable. with almost a full year of dining behind me since our initial trip as well as issues with a few new places i am interested in trying (not yet a blood&sand member and boring menu at home wine kitchen), carrie and i decided to give sidney street cafe another visit. i will note that almost a month has passed since our meal, and i am definitely hazy on a lot of what we were served on this night, so please bear with me =)

having made reservations via telephone that morning for a six o'clock table for two, carrie and i ran into a considerable amount of traffic on our trek from illinois, but still managed to arrive only a few minutes past six. upon confirmation of our reservation, we were shown to a two top in the candle lit dining room. on our first visit to sidney street, the menu was written out vaguely on a chalkboard and it was the job of the server to thoroughly explain each offering. although the appetizer portion of the menu is still done in this fashion, the main entrees are now typed out in full on a standard menu. for me, this is a perfect compromise between the two methods, as it still gives the charm of the chalkboard but allows the diner to accurately select their entree without having to ask the server to repeat all of the components multiple times.

unbeknowst to me on our first visit, sidney street also offers a tasting menu consisting of an amuse, appetizer, fish course, meat course, and dessert for a reasonable price of sixty dollars. our server informed us that the way the tasting normally works is that each person actually receives a different dish than their dining companion, and asked if that was ok with us. deeming this the most logical way to fully enjoy chef nashan's cooking, carrie and i opted for the tasting without hesitation, and we asked if there were any offerings from the menu we specifically wanted to try (foie and pork for me, and surprises for carrie). we also requested to be served a few small tasting portions of wine throughout the meal at the discretion of our server. this request was handled graciously and without issue.

shortly after placing our order, the amuse for the evening arrived in the form of whipped eggs and cheese with ham and snow peas. if i recall correctly, our server mentioned that the eggs and cheese were whipped and then put in an aerosol can to give the dish a light and airy consistency. honestly, this was a bit of a miss for me, as i am not a fan of peas, and there was far too little ham. also, the sheer amount of whipped egg was somewhat overwhelming, and i found it difficult to finish. for me, this would have been more successful in a much smaller portion. 

for my first proper course, my request for the foie dish was granted. this was a small portion of seared foie gras on a blini served with peanut butter ice cream and a cherry gastrique. although i wish there had been another bite or two of foie, this offering was definitely a hit for me, as the rich liver worked beautifully with the peanut butter ice cream that was more savory than sweet.

carrie was served a house made pasta dish as her first course. the details have been forgotten, but i know this course was enjoyed by carrie.

my fish course for the evening was pan roasted skate served with mushrooms, house made potato chips, and a few other ingredients.

caramelized scallops with brown butter grits.

sidney street's pork offering changes often, and on this night it featured an excellent crispy pork belly.

lamb trio

at this point i am unable to comment on the desserts aside from the fact that mine (pictured first) had a peanut butter and jelly theme going on with carbonated grapes.

overall, this visit to sidney street was considerably better than our first. with the exception of the amuse, everything included in our tasting menu was delicious and interesting, and gives me a much better impression of what chef nashan is capable of. this meal definitely ranks in the top five i have had in st. louis, and has firmly put the sidney street cafe on the map for me. next time around, i will be sure to write a much more comprehensive review! i will also take this opportunity to note that while i have fallen behind on my blog as of late (meals at sanctuaria, bogart's, longman & eagle, fixe @ half and half, and another visit to niche may never be posted), i am still dedicated to this venture and have a very exciting trip to new york city coming up at the end of january boasting a ridiculous restaurant line up (13 michelin stars in 3 days). please stay tuned...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

bailey's range - st. louis, mo
920 olive street
st. louis, mo 63101

located in the space that was previously city gourmet, bailey's range is the fourth restaurant from st. louis restaurateur david bailey. the range is a burger and shake concept with an extensive menu of interesting craft burgers made from missouri grass fed beef as well as bison, turkey, chicken, lamb, and even duck. bread is baked on site, all the condiments and ice creams are house made, and most everything else is sourced locally. given my enthusiasm for bailey's chocolate bar and bridge taphouse (rooster not as much) and love of a well thought out burger, bailey's range quickly jumped to the top of my list of must try places.

upon finding metered parking a few blocks down from the restaurant, carrie and i along with my brother chris entered the restaurant around 2pm on the day before thanksgiving, and were offered seating at either the bar or community table located on the downstairs level. choosing the table, we were shown to the far end which separated us from other diners significantly. like both bridge taphouse and bailey's chocolate bar, much attention was paid to the interior design of bailey's range as it is both unique and impressive to say the least. shortly after getting situated we exchanged pleasantries with our server and were left to browse a menu filled with excellent sounding choices

for drinks, bailey's offers an enormous selection of cane sugar sodas and local microbrews along with milkshakes (some boozy), cocktails, and a concise wine list. i opted to start off with a beer, and selected the perennial southside blonde. this was an enjoyable brew with mild hop flavoring and a bit of citrus. carrie went with a cocktail called the raspberry, made with citron vodka and raspberry nectar.

for food, we started with two items from the "snacks" section of the menu. pictured first are the smoked onion rings which were a big hit for all three of us. the second starter, fresh marcoot cheese curds, came as a bit of a disappointment as i was expecting the cheese to be fried. to be fair though, if i had paid more attention to the wording on the menu it could have been avoided. served with an excellent house made mustard, apples, and crisp bread, the curds were tasty for sure, just not what we were anticipating.

moving on to the main event, i went against my conventional way of thinking and instead of ordering a traditional beef burger opted for an offering made with a bison patty. called the pb&j, this burger featured the aforementioned bison patty with arugula pesto, house tomato jam, fresh goat cheese, and baby arugula. served on a seriously awesome pretzel roll per my request (+$1) and cooked "pink" as opposed to "no pink", the pb&j burger proved to be an excellent choice. i will say, however, that while i really enjoyed the sweetness of the jam mixed with the tang of the goat cheese, those two flavors really dominated my palate and did not allow the pesto to be as prevalent as i would have hoped.

for her burger, carrie decided on the ozark made with ozark forest crimini mushrooms, caramelized onions, black peppered goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. although cooked a tad more thoroughly than either of us would have preferred given her request for "pink", this burger was another success. while not a big deal to me, carrie did mention that she felt the burger was somewhat difficult to eat given the thickness of the patty, and wished it had been spread out a little more.

to go along with our burgers, the three of us elected to share the $4 order of fries which proved to be more than we needed. the fries were excellent and came with a choice of one sauce which i differed to our server. she brought us the "rooster" sauce which was a terrific sriracha mayo that the three of us all enjoyed.

for dessert, we all decided to try out one of the many interesting sounding "boozy" milkshakes made with house made ice cream. i knew going in that i would be trying the sweet sweet bacon shake (bourbon, candied bacon, salted caramel ice cream), and although i was surprised to see a large piece of bacon sticking out of the shake as i was merely expecting small bits to be mixed throughout, this drink was heavy on the bourbon and had a great sweet/savory interplay going on. fantastic! both carrie and my brother had the irish coffee shake prepared with jameson, bailey's, and expresso ice cream. while not on the level of the bacon bourbon goodness in my opinion, this too was a good shake. if i could find one fault with the shakes, i would say that they could stand to be a bit thicker. (note: pic on left is from iphone 4g, pic on right iphone 4gs...what a difference!)

going into our meal at bailey's range, i was excited but yet somewhat nervous due to some of the poor reviews i had read on yelp about the wait times, food quality, and rude staff. i am happy to report that i had no such issues whatsoever. we were seated immediately and without confusion, our server was as friendly and professional as can be, and the food was all well worth its cost and was served at a proper pace. there is no doubt that carrie and i will be visiting bailey's range many more times, and being that they stay open until 1am, the range will be perfect for a late night snack after a blues/cardinals game or concert

Baileys Range on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

franco (2) - st. louis, mo
1535 south eight street
st. louis, mo 63104

after enjoying two successful lunches at franco this year, carrie and i have always said we wanted to return to franco for dinner at some point to really see what the soulard located restaurant was about. however, franco kept getting passed up in lieu of something new or potentially more exciting, and it wasn't until i saw a tweet from the restaurant advertising a five course tasting menu in honor of their five year anniversary that we decided to finally commit to a dinner at franco.

with a 7:30 reservation booked via open table and my parents joining us for the meal, we parked in the lot across the street from franco, and made our way inside roughly ten minutes early. we were led through the full dining room by a seemingly disinterested hostess to a four top in the window along the restaurant's rear wall, and settled in for what we hoped would be an excellent night. after exchanging pleasantries with our sever, we mentioned that we were all going to partake in the five course tasting menu, and away we went.

arriving shortly after our order was confirmed was a basic offering of bread and butter. the bread went quicky and another loaf appeared without prompting later in the meal.

caesar salad - romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, croutons, baked parmesan
m. chapoutier "bila-haut" grenache blanc, cotes de roussillon, france, 2009

course one was a prototypical caesar salad with the addition of a baked parmesan crisp. this was a decent starter with the crisp lettuce and tangy dressing making for a well executed but fairly pedestrian take on this traditional offering.

escargot - baked in shell, garlic-herb butter
eric chevalier chardonnay, loire, france, 2009

next up was a quintet of escargot baked in their shell with a garlic herb-butter. prior to this meal, the only time i have had escargot was in a ravioli at girl and the goat in chicago. unsure what to expect, i dug out the snail meat with my fork and was met with a fairly mild flavor and pleasant texture. the snails were not rubbery or mushy, and the main flavor i detected came from the garlic-herb butter. while not offensive in any manner, this course did little for me as a whole, and if this is what i should expect from escargot, i will not go out of my way to have them in the future.

sweetbreads - puff pastry, mushroom ragout
domaine la garrigue syrah/grenache, cote du rhone, france, 2008

course three was the strongest course of the tasting so far, and featured sweetbreads with a puff pastry and mushroom ragout. the gland was nicely prepared and mild in flavor while the mushrooms added an earthy punch.

grilled bistro steak - cafe de paris butter, bacon braised brussel sprouts, pommes frites
gerard bertrand cabernet sauvignon, france, 2009

our final savory course of the evening was the largest portion of the meal, and came in the form of a grilled bistro steak with pommes frites and brussel sprouts. cooked spot on medium-rare and topped with an excellent cafe de paris butter, the steak was cut into thirds and was a great way to end the meal. while the pommes frites were also tasty, the bacon braised brussel sprouts were fantastic.

tahitian vanilla creme brulee
carmes de riussec sauternes, france, 2008

paired with a sweet sauternes, our dessert was a tahitian vanilla creme brulee. with a thicker than average layer of burnt crust on top of the creamy custard, this was a tasty albeit unremarkable ending to the meal.

given the price paid for the meal ($50 per person inclusive of wine), i would consider this dinner a success. while none of the food was overly creative or exceptionally good, i enjoyed all of it and really can't think of any issues or glaring faults in either the flavors or preparations. additionally, all of the wines were quite palatable and paired well with the corresponding courses. the service, on the other hand, was a bit lacking to me. while our server was definitely friendly, i was a bit disappointed that each of our courses and wines were merely set on the table without any descriptions whatsoever. had i not requested to keep a copy of the tasting menu on the table, we would have been left in the dark as to the details of the food and wine. additionally, empty plates were occasionally left crowding the table for longer than i would consider acceptable. given that it was a full house that night and the fact that franco does not offer tasting menus on a regular basis, we did not hold either issue against our server. in the end, i am glad to have finally made it to franco for a dinner service, and i would like to come back sometime and order al a carte for a different experience.

Monday, November 7, 2011

fixe @ half & half (3) - st. louis, mo
8135 maryland avenue
st. louis, mo 63105

pics only this time around as i have allowed far too much time to pass before getting around to writing about this meal. what i can say is that chef mike randolph's cooking on this night was exceptional per usual, and while it seems as though the fixe concept has been put on hold for the time being with the inception of medianoche, i would certainly be interested in attending another one of these dinners in the future.

fish n' chips - halibut, tartar, malt vinegar

salmon pastrami - apple, brussel sprouts, mustard

beef - shortrib, hanger, pickled fall vegetables

lamb - shank, loin, cabbage, turnip, truffle

roquefort - celery, chery, port, pecans