Niche (StL) -- Tasting Menu Review
Foodloving parents and son visiting Washington University were given recommendations for Niche, based in large part on feedback from this board. Here is father's very hound-worthy review:
okay, here is the report on Niche. We had 9:30 reservations. Small intimate space, probably holds no more than 50. Very loud (something that bugs me about all new restaurants). Decided on the 5 course tasting menu, i also had the wine pairings. Service was nice, attentive, knowledgable. When this palce cleared out (about an hour after we arrive) it was really a nice space:
this was tomatoes done two ways. the first was a smoked and roasted tomato gazpacho with a scoop of sweet yellow tomato sorbet. One of my favorite dishes of the night. the second was a tomato tart with carmelized onions, riccota and a smoke trout roe on top. there was also a sauce made with fennel and i don't remember what else. Also excellent.
Course 2: Escolar
Nice white fish "pieces", i think 4 on a plate with baby squash, pea shoots and crisped rice. they were sitting in a black garlic paste, this is made for them from garlic, dried and fermented. has a really earthy garlic flavo. Also had a vinegarette over the top. Dana's favorite dish (i think). the crisped rice was a real surprise that added texture to the beautiful fish.
Course 3: Surf and Turf
i had this one (Dana and Noah substituted a risotto, more in a minute). this was a pollenta (and a real polenta, not really yellow, looked like ground corn and was delicious) with pulled pork leg and a scallop. Pea shoots on top and like a lemon ponzu vinegrette. there were also pork cracklins on top. nice contrast in flavors and textures. the scallop was great, pork was okay, the risotto was off the menu and was really good. it was with gold risotto with radish, carrot, sunchoke, baby squash, corn and sherry. they mix marscapone in with the risotto and it was really creamy, but had a crunch from the corn. i loved it.
Palette cleanser: Grapefruit sorbet with basil
wow. we couldn't figure out how they did this since it was not greeen. turns out they soak the basil in the water they use to make the sorbet. was absolutely delicious.
Course 4: Beef
Beef cooked 3 ways. Prime Rib end caps sous vide and in a soy carmel. very tender and med rare right through. noah thought it was the best. i thought it was the weakest of the 3 beef preps. also a dash of fluer de sel on top. Next to it were pommes frit, obviously made the right way (twice fried) but forgot to ask what they were fried in. delicious. Next was beef tartare made from rib eye with a raw quail egg on top. i thought this was best of the beef, and it was really delicious. mixed the egg in which added some creaminess, the tartare was not a fine version but had real texture i liked. Finally was a beef bourgonione with radishes and carrots. A lovely roasted verion of pot roast.
Course 5: pine nut rosemary tart with goat cheese frozen yogurt. this was a small tart, but i swear there was a pound of butter in each one. i think it was the richness of the pine nuts. we all went gaga over this. it also had a poached fig and a cherry sause on the side, none of us cared for this but didn't want the tart to end.
that's it. we had a great meal, up to par with any major metro fine dining establishment. lots of interesting combinations and cooking techniques. i would highly recommend it and definetly go back.
Thanks for taking the time to review. Actually Niche has been open several years now, and it is acclaimed in the St. Louis area as one of the best, and would put it on par with many of the better restos in Chicago, where I lived at one point and still visit often, though less so now that I no longer live in IL. Niche has a VERY intimate tasting bar next door...eclectic menu, and well worth a visit. Everything under 10 dollars. Good place to nosh prior to the main event, or, as popular as the place is now. Thanks to all the press, you can't get into the main resto on short notice, one can make a meal at the taste bar (same building, sep. entrance). There is a new Brasserie by Niche opening soon in the Central West End, an urbane area of shops and restaurants (as well as residential) near Forest Park. I just was nearby and it looks like it might be December(??) before it opens.