Posts tagged ‘St. Louis’
Five Bistro is an anomaly. It’s in on the Hill, the cozy Italian section of St. Louis, yet it’s not an Italian restaurant. It does share a common trait with many of its Hill peers however, in that is family owned and operated, with a strong emphasis on service. Joe and Bonnie Devoti manage the front of the house: son Anthony is the executive chef. Though I didn’t meet Chef Anthony, his parents were charming, appropriately attentive , and they ran the restaurant as though it were a walk in the park. The service throughout the evening was impeccable. It’s not a stretch for me to suggest that the last time I may have had service of this quality was in a Danny Meyer restaurant, ironically a St. Louis boy who made good and is building a restaurant empire in New York City.
But man/woman cannot live on service alone, so let me assure you that the food was every bit as compelling. The menu changes daily depending on what the chef finds at market, so the ingredients in every dish scream “fresh” and the vegetables taste just picked. All meats and cheeses are locally sourced. Everything is homemade, including the outstanding foccacia, which was served with olive oil ( a bit like gilding a lily). And the ravioli. The night I was there, the housemade pasta was stuffed with roasted beets, pecans, and local goat cheese, served atop mushroom and cauliflower puree. It looked rich, but was light and dreamy.
I chose the scallop entree, and though it was pricey for the size (2 large scallops for $25), each of the scallops was sweet, succulent and perfectly prepared. The Chioggia beets, snap peas and squash that accompanied the scallops were crisp and bursting with flavor. The dish, served on watercress, was finished with a light champagne vinaigrette.
Other menu options included an appetizer tart with stilton bleu cheese, caramelized onion and tarragon with a balsamic reduction and micro greens, housemade charcuterie, a sprout salad with more of those sweet beets, beef tenderloin, a pork special, a half-chicken with gnocchi and rabbit.
Desserts are identified on the menu as a “sorbet tasting”, a “pastry tasting” and a “chocolate tasting”. The server described each one lovingly as he explained that though each has at least a couple of components, they aren’t too big to conquer. And conquer we did, sampling each of the evening’s chocolate desserts. One was a kind of caramel nouget dipped in chocolate and served with homemade chocolate ice cream, the other was a slice of flourless chocolate torte with homemade mint ice cream. Each was art on a plate.
The wine list is small (read:manageable), incredibly well-conceived and fairly priced.
I was pleased with the size of the portions, (it’s nice to have room for dessert) though they may not satisfy the hungriest appetite. To counter that possibility, there’s a 4 course option for $45 that’s hard to beat.
The restaurant is casual yet tastefully appointed, walk-ins are welcome and big parties can be accommodated. If you want a quiet evening, ask for the front room. The back room is also lovely, but larger and more lively.
My only regret is that this gem is not in Kansas City. If it were, it would be my go-to place for a casual evening (for a glass of wine and an appetizer at the bar) or a special night out. Though it has received some well-deserved accolades, Five Bistro has largely flied under the radar. I can’t believe that will be the case for long.
Terrene means “of the earth”, a very apt name for this eco-friendly restaurant in the Central West End of St. Louis. In addition to the menus being printed on recycled paper, the bar tables were fashioned from office paper (don’t ask me how). Look closely and you’ll see embedded staple and paper clip remains.
But that only scratches the surface of why the owners named the restaurant Terrene. All meats come from animals that have been treated humanely, the produce comes from local farmers, and there’s a large and inventive selection of vegetarian options. We started with amazing tofu tacos. The freshly made corn tortillas had been grilled, the tofu was cut so small that non-tofu eaters could be fooled into thinking they were eating chicken, and the salsa verde dipping sauce was redolent of a green garden.
We also enjoyed a veggie sausage flatbread, which tasted just like authentic Italian sausage with fennel and spices. I was initially skeptical of the provolone cheese, but it had just the right flavor and texture to complement the chewy crust. The “meat” comes from the St. Louis based Match Meat Company. I am going to try to get Whole Foods in Kansas City to carry it; it would revolutionize options for the home cook trying to serve healthier meals. Another creative dish was the pear and goat cheese salad. The pear was cored and stuffed with goat cheese, a preparation I had never seen.
Meat-lovers need not dispair, the menu has a host of non-vegetarian dishes. There are small plates as well as entrees, including chicken, pork and steak dishes, a nightly fish special and bouillabaisse. I had quail, stuffed with a fruit studded couscous and served with greens and a berry sauce. The soup of the day was a dark gumbo with chicken, tasso ham and crawfish.
We were there on a Sunday night, and though the bar was quiet, the dining area was full. The terrazzo floors and brick walls made it a bit noisy, but not uncomfortably so. Unfortunately, it was too cold for outside dining, but one peek at the cozy patio explained why it’s voted “best patio dining” year after year in a local magazine.