St Louis - Blood and Sand
Blood & Sand is a hip downtown St. Louis eatery just off Washington Avenue. They have a strong focus on cocktails, which are generally quite good. The service is also good. The food is rather progressive, especially for St. Louis, but I have to admit that the results are mixed. We ordered quite a few of their entrees and found that they ranged from mediocre to good, nothing memorable.
I would skip Mosiac, it's gone way downhill. Blood and sand is very excellent for both food and cocktails. I went last night and loved the atmosphere. It is members only on Friday and Saturday which seems dumb because all but the bar was empty last night. I initially paid for a membership but stopped as I wasn't going regularly. They let me and my guests in last night without hassle. I did see them turn away folks whom they asked if they were tourists. Seems like a poor business model for such a big expensive space and operation. I think during the week you do not need membership though...
it does seem an odd model. might work in NYC or LA, but STL is well, an unprepossessing place not likely to be interested for long, outside of a country club type situation (if you're going to require membership, I'll need to know who the other members are and vice versa. after all if anyone with the money can join then that's really not the point of a members only type place)
I finally had a chance to try Blood and Sand, and thought I'd share my thoughts.
As described, B&S is a private eating club that accepts non-members on weeknights. I made a reservation for a weeknight, as a non-member, and showed up on-time. Familiar with other cities' speakeasy culture, I wanted to iron out difficulties in advance. But B&S did not seem very restrictive, though, as some folks just wandered right in and there were many open tables.
The restaurant itself is one large room with a bar on one side and the dining room on the back. Flanking one side is a bank of windows looking out on an urban tableau of downtown, which I found very pleasant. The other side is the open kitchen, including a small chef's seating. One of the best bathrooms in STL, too, for what that's worth. Glassed-in wine cellar was cool, although the wine list was amazingly small for such a cellar to choose from. Overall, the decor is dark grays and browns counterpoised with creams. I found it to be very pleasant, and felt I could've been in West Loop or Brooklyn. Despite a few design quibbles, I found it to be a mature yet cool setting, mostly playing progressive rock music. Grade: A-.
Given the restaurant's cocktail pedigree, I started with one in the bar. My first selection was terrible, and the tattooed bartendress was nice enough to make me something else. There was no small talk, which I can't tell is appropriate given that I was a non-member, but was dining solo, and barkeeps tend to make a little chitchat with those alone. Be that as it may, Grade: gentleman's B.
I started dinner with a deconstructed "pork bun." Unlike the standard moist and warm pork bun I was familiar with, this was a dry monstrosity. First was a large piece of dry, rice bread, topped with a huge amount of salt pork (called ham, but very dry), sliced Grannie Smith apples and cabbage that lent no flavor, and a sauce that lent a modicum of moisture. I parceled out a glass of Prum Mosel Rieseling to help choke it down. My reactoin when I finished: "Whew, I made it." I found this to be anything like a standard pork bun - not moist, warm or with that sweetness found in Hoisin-tinged pork. It reminded me of something from Denny's. Grade: F
For my entree, I had panfried quail served with two veggie sides. The quail were large and domestic coated with a nice Moroccan spice rub; the legs were moist and the breasts were a little overcooked and dry. One side was described as a "ratatouille" of sour carrots and pickled grapes, and the other was a bitter Chinese broccoli/onion concoction. I enjoyed both, although I couldn't figure out how these veggie sides were designed to complement the spicy quail. In any event, I found the dish to be very decent and somewhat interesting. It was paired with a Cab/Grenache/Syrah blend that was nice, but not nearly spicy enough for the quail. Grade: B + (with some grade inflation for the interesting combination and not playing it safe).
I skipped dessert, which looked a little dull, and they had no espresso, so I took my leave. The waitress was pleasant and just chatty enough to remind me she was there. Total was around $85 for one with tax & tip.
In sum, I would happily go back, but would temper my expectations. I think the room is great and a lovely setting in downtown STL. It's a good addition to a dining scene and sorely needed to contrast with hotel restaurants and touristed eateries on Wash Ave. Fortunately, the chef was trying to be innovative and take chances, with results ranging from pretty good to awful, which is a lot given the tab can run high per person. Personally, I'd like places like this to survive and thrive, and I hope it matures into its space. I think this fills an eating niche pretty well, especially downtown.