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Feb 22, 2018
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Posts Tagged ‘review’

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2016

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2016:


5. Hakka Stir Fry at Tai Ke
In a single mouthful, this Taiwanese dish, consisting of matchstick slivers of pork, squid and dried tofu tossed with celery and garlic, managed to defy simplicity with a brilliant concatenation of complex flavors and textures.




4. Brodetto at Parigi
This tomato-based fish stew was a picture-perfect bowl of snow-white fish, clams, mussels and head-on shrimp in a broth redolent with red wine vinegar and lemon zest. I did not come up for air until each shell was picked clean and every drop of intoxicating broth was sopped up with yeasty, crusty bread.

3. Potpie at Olive & Oak
Puncturing the buttery, flakey robe of crust revealed a treasure of mushrooms, kale, butternut squash and cauliflower through puffs of fragrant steam. The earthy roasted leek gravy proved that not every potpie requires chicken or beef.




2. Vegetable Ramen at Vista Ramen
My veggie ramen at Vista was chock-full of cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms and carrots, though yours may vary. What won’t change is the broth’s deep, funky umami, so rich it seems like a liqueur.




And the No. 1 Dish of the Year…
Catfish Po’ Boy Steamed Bun at Kounter Kulture
A dark-hued, crackling fried coating framed the natural succulence and fresh taste of catfish, all topped with an unforgettable sprinkle of spicy togarashi and douse of creamy shishito pepper-cherry tomato remoulade.

Parigi and Vista Ramen photos by Jonathan Gayman

Related Content
10 Best New Restaurants of 2016

New & Notable: Kounter Kulture

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2015



Extra Sauce: Top 5 Lunch Dishes of 2014

Monday, December 29th, 2014

Sauce restaurant critic Byron Kerman knows how precious the lunch hour is. All year, he’s shared the highs and lows of new and venerable lunch joints around St. Louis in Power Lunch. Here, he shares his top five lunch dishes of 2014:




No. 5: Buffalo Blue Burger at Lulu’s Local Eats
Lulu’s sweet potato burger has crunchy panko breading on the outside yielding to a soft, moist interior. The Buffalo Blue version adds vegan “ranch” dressing (made with lemon, cucumber and eggless Vegenaise) and a creamy hot sauce to the thickly formed patty. If you can make a better vegan burger, we’d love to try it.




No. 4: Smoked Brisket at Adam’s Smokehouse
The melt-in-your-mouth brisket is the star of the show at Adam’s, where it’s sliced it thin as deli meat. The reddish trim and smoky taste were rapturous. Only a heretic would put a drop of sauce on it.




No. 3: Buttermilk-Cornmeal Pancakes at Southwest Diner
Southwest Diner’s buttermilk-cornmeal pancakes with buttery-brown edges are done just the way pancakes should be: thin and crispy, not fat and fluffy. Ask for real maple syrup for an extra buck to properly anoint these babies.




No. 2: Hot Pastrami Sandwich at Death in the Afternoon
I’ll just come out and say it: The Hot Pastrami sandwich at Death in the Afternoon is quite possibly the best you will ever put in your mouth. It’s crazy-good, largely because the drippings from the thinly sliced pastrami are collected and mixed into a house-made mustard-mayonnaise sauce. I know what you’re thinking: Mayo and pastrami shouldn’t mix. I didn’t care, and you won’t either.

And my No. 1 dish of the year…




Kung Pao Squid at Joy Luck Buffet
The kung pao squid on Joy Luck Buffet’s secret Szechuan menu requires a good 15 minutes to pick a veritable army of dried Szechuan peppers off the plate. The struggle is worth it; pliant squid and peanuts cavort in a kung pao sauce that, like a well-aged Burgundy, takes the diner to a dark, deep, complex place. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only kung pao in town.


-Lulu’s photo by Elizabeth Maxson; Adam’s Smokehouse photo by Jonathan Gayman; Southwest Diner and Death in the Afternoon photos by Elizabeth Jochum; Joy Luck Buffet photo by Carmen Troesser

In This Issue: Nightlife – Hiro Asian Kitchen

Thursday, October 10th, 2013



In a time when simplicity, local sourcing and a “less is more” philosophy hold sway over so many bar owners and restaurateurs, it’s hard not to grin at a new establishment bucking all trends and, if anything, erring on the side of ostentation. Inside its chic little address in the nexus of Washington Avenue, the former Smash Bar and Sugar Lounge space has been reborn as Hiro Asian Kitchen. Part Pan-Asian eatery and part after-hours cocktail lounge, this ambitious newcomer is a bastion of excess.

Imagine if Benihana and P.F. Chang’s tied the knot and decorated their new downtown loft. That’s a close approximation to the look of Hiro – tastefully flashy. You can tell the owners threw some serious coin into this futuristic Asian-fusion redesign, which maintains a lively atmosphere throughout the night.

To read what our reviewer thought of this downtown hotspot, click here.

-photo by Jonathan Gayman



In This Issue: Nightlife – Atomic Cowboy

Thursday, September 19th, 2013


It’s 9:15 p.m. on a Friday, and Atomic Cowboy’s juicer is on the fritz. It’s busted. Inoperable. Man down.

The bartender shrugs. I sulk.

Under normal circumstances, I could care less about the functionality of a kitchen appliance; however, tonight its out-of-order-ness means that I can’t get one of the bar’s signature beet juice or Beetnik margaritas, which, though it may sound froufrou as all hell, has become a personal obsession.

Though I’m indifferent to beets, beet juice and actual beatniks, I love this drink. It’s a savory-sweet monster of a cocktail with a surprisingly tangy kick and a healthy wallop of tequila. It blissfully blurs all thoughts of spreadsheets and TPS reports. It makes my cheeks red. I want one again. Now, even.

As sad as the juicer fiasco is, I’m not surprised. This is the second time Atomic has deprived me of one of my favorite cocktails on its new drink menu (Last time they were out of beets.). Much like Atomic itself, this reimagined take on a classic is still somewhat under construction.

To read more of what our reviewer thought of this revamped staple in The Grove, click here.
-Photo by Jonathan Gayman



In This Issue: Nightlife – Alpha Brewing Company

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013


Alpha Brewing Company emerged this spring as the scrappy new contender in the ever-thriving St. Louis craft beer scene. There’s a distinct alternative appeal to this spot situated a block north of Washington Avenue. Alone in a gritty, nondescript back alley adjacent to the City Museum on Lucas Avenue, Alpha is flanked by a handful of parking lots. As the sun sets on a Friday, gaggles of club-ready 20-somethings click past the joint with hardly a glance. They’re not to blame, as the signage is almost purposely, yet fittingly, lacking.
Bellied up to the main bar is a herd of young guys – most in need of a shave, sporting flip-flops and T-shirts. Across from them in a dark leather sectional sits a brunette flipping through her smartphone, oblivious to her companions – two dudes in Polo shirts weighing in on politics. Opposite, a handful of middle-aged friends in button-downs hover over a narrow communal table stretching nearly the length of the entranceway. Outside, a small patio decked out in high-top tables teems with smokers, smokers’ friends and smokers’ dogs. Hardly an A-list, glitzy crowd, this is just the type of scene where anyone might comfortably blend in.
As you might expect from a fresh-faced endeavor deep in loft country, Alpha Brewing has a funky, laid-back look. A bright, abstract mural welcomes guests to a cozy, minimalist tasting room dressed with little more than a handful of wooden tables and a couch. From the center of the main bar, barkeeps pull on 10 taps – imposing pieces of custom metal (artwork in themselves) from which flows the real lifeblood of the place.
To read more about what Matt Berkley thought of this this tucked-away beer bar, click here.
-Photo by Jonathan Gayman

In This Issue: New & Notable – Central Table Food Hall

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013


Describe it as a food emporium. Label it a communal dining experience. Compare the concept to New York’s The Plaza Food Hall, L.A.’s Umamicatessen or even Tokyo’s Takashimaya food hall. Say it’s a nightclub for foodies.

Just don’t call Central Table Food Hall a food court.

Central Table is St. Louis’ first experience with the national food hall explosion. Situated on the first floor of Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s newly constructed Center for Outpatient Health on the corner of South Euclid Avenue and Forest Park Parkway, the hall takes up nearly a city block. It’s a concept that could only work in the densely populated and mobile Central West End. While its executive chef Nick Martinkovic was imported from Brooklyn’s popular farm-to-table Roberta’s, the food and the rest of the talent are locally sourced. Managing this mammoth operation is Matt McGuire, recently of Brasserie but best known as the man behind the departed – and terribly missed – King Louie’s. When Elliot Harris parks his Chop Shop sushi food truck for the night, he rolls maki and constructs beautiful displays of superb sushi and nigiri at Central Table.

Within this broad gastro-landscape, there is something for everyone – a statement that typically signals, “Warning: Boredom and Mediocrity Ahead.” Yet, Central Table keeps things interesting.

See what reviewer Michael Renner thought of Central Table’s diverse offerings here.

 -Photo by Elizabeth Jochum



In This Issue: New and Notable – Pan D’Olive

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

{Lobster ravioli}

While Pan D’Olive, the pan-Mediterranean restaurant housed in the former Mihalis Chophouse on McCausland Avenue, is not new (It opened in November 2012.), it is notable for a few reasons. First, there’s the affordability: Most entrees are in the mid-teens and no meze is over 10 bucks. And happy hour revelers can truly revel over the $3 select cocktails and house wines, $2 draft beers, $1 select small plates and half-price flatbreads. Then there is the space: sleek and stylish, with acres of dark wood, lots of subdued lighting and a spacious, multilevel layout, including the bar area with its illuminated bar top and striking mezzanine lounge.

Click here to read more of what Michael Renner thought about Pan D’Olive.

–Photo by Elizabeth Jochum

New and Notable: Niche

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

{Braised Carrot: barigoule, quinoa, dill, chive, yeast}

Did Gerard Craft break your heart when he moved Niche from the city’s quaint yet quirky Benton Park to the county’s corporate yet classy Clayton? Did you sigh with resignation when you learned the new Niche dropped a la carte entrees in favor of its four-course prix fixe and nine-course tasting menus? Craft offers no apologies. As the owner of four top St. Louis restaurants, he doesn’t have to.

Read the rest of Michael Renner’s review of Niche, here.

— photo by Carmen Troesser

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