1831 sidney street, st louis mo
although there are several restaurants in st. louis that i have not yet been to, i think it is safe to say that niche is my favorite restaurant in the city currently. this was our fourth trip to niche, and the second since the inception of pat likes to eat (click here for our last visit). each trip to niche has exceeded the trip prior, and this meal was no exception.
for the first time, we opted for the chef's tasting menu with the wine pairings. we asked about making a substitution for the beef course, and after a quick word with the chef, our friendly and informative server told us that this would be no problem. we also added an extra course to the tasting for good measure.
maple custard - roasted mushrooms, bonito caviar
enrico prosecco valdobiadiene nv
the first course definitely got things going on the right track. entitled maple custard, this was a wonderful combination of sweet and savory elements. served in an egg shell on a small pedestal, the maple custard was mixed with earthy roasted mushrooms and topped with bonito caviar. although it was explained to us, i cannot exactly recall what the bonito caviar actually was. we were told it was made in house, and was not caviar at all. regardless, it mixed very well with the mushrooms and custard, and helped make our first course a winner.
after our eggs were cleared away, a nice house made foccacia with kalamata olives was served. like our last visit, no spread was offered with the bread, but that was not a problem at all. served at room temperature, the bread was wonderfully soft, and had a subtle olive flavor throughout.
lobster - brown butter hollandaise, apples, togarashi, tarragon, celery
hiedler "loss" gruner veltliner kamptal 2009
course two was a piece of bread topped with a generous portion of lobster, apples, celery, tarragon, and togarashi. the streak of sauce on the plate was an incredibly rich brown butter hollandaise. what made this dish interesting was the togarashi, which was caramelized in nature and reminded me of the top of a creme brulee from a textural standpoint. flavor wise, the togarashi was sweet at first and then turned quite spicy. this was a fantastic mix with the sweet lobster meat, and made this dish a contestant for the best dish i have had in st. louis.
pappardelle - braised short rib ragout, mascarpone, apple, orange, olive oil
green and red zinfandel napa valley 2007
dish three was the course we added to the tasting. this was a nice pappardelle pasta with short rib ragout, mascarpone cheese, apple, orange, and olive oil. overall, this was a great dish that rivaled the pappardelle with duck sugo i recently raved about at sepia in chicago. carrie and i were also both quite taken by the green and red 2007 zinfandel paired with this course. fruity yet still earthy and complex, this was a wonderful wine that i plan to seek out in the future.
sorbet of lemon and fennel
next up was a palate cleanser, a sorbet of lemon and fennel. delicious and refreshing, we both very much enjoyed the cleanser. apparently the cleanser was served out of order, but with the substitutions and additions we made to the tasting, we felt it had a good impact where it was served.
uni alla chittara - sea urchin, crab, mint, chili flake
belle glod "meomi" pinot noir sonoma/monterrey/santa barbara 2009
next up was a dish that was only available as part of the tasting. this was a nest of chittara pasta with sea urchin, crab, mint, and chili flake. this dish had a bit of heat to it from the chili flake, but not too much so as to over power the sweet flavors of the crab and urchin.
golden tilefish - brandade, polenta, salsa verde, walnuts
course five was the course we substituted for the fillet of beef. this was both carrie and i's first experience with tilefish, and if it is always this good i can see us ordering it often when available. sitting atop a bed of polenta and topped with salsa verde and walnuts, the wonderful fish was cooked to perfection, and reminded me of the flavor of maybe lobster or scallops.
frozen coconut and passion fruit lime terrine - hazelnut lime financier
course six was a surprise, as it was sent out compliments of the chef. this dessert was a frozen coconut and passion fruit lime terrine with delcious hazelnut lime finaciers. the terrine was perfcetly tart, and went well with the small french cakes. both carrie and i actually preferred this dessert to the one that was included as part of our tasting.
sticky date cake - yogurt orange and coffee parfait
valamasca moscato d'asti 2009
our final course of the evening was a sticky date cake with orange yogurt and coffee parfait. although we preferred the lime terrine with the financiers, this was still a very formidable dessert. the date cake was sweet and delicious, and the coffee parfait was also quite nice.
since our first visit to niche in march of 2010, carrie and i have dined at five michelin starred restaurants, including alinea and l20 which both received the full three star rating. while nothing we have had at niche compares with the cuisine at alinea, the lobster course (with a few tweaks) we enjoyed on this night would not have seemed terribly out of place to me on l20's tasting menu. i believe that if niche were located in chicago (or any city michelin would visit) there is a chance it would receive one star, or at least be named to the bib gourmand list. st. louis is very lucky to have niche, and i look forward to visiting this fine restaurant time and time again.