Monday, May 10, 2010

The not so sleek Sleek....

After rooting for him on Top Chef Masters, my wife and I figured that a well-deserved night out without the kids to a local restaurant would be the best thing for our 'date night'. The only celebrity chef that has anything in St. Louis, is Hubert Keller's two restaurants in the Lumiere' Place Casino, downtown. The restaurant was nicely decorated as it allowed the decor and feeling of the next door ultra lounge to pervade through and into the dining area to evoke a calm and relaxed emotion. We were greeted by a chatty but very informative waiter named Johnathon, who besides only two other dishes, turned out to be the best part of the evening.

     You would figure that a world class chef coming into the St. Louis area, would at least use the area's resources to make his food as well as promote his restaurant within the area. Mr. Keller did not do this. My wife and I have eaten in many locations around the US and the world and even in places like Las Vegas, LA or Miami, some steakhouses will promote the fact that their beef comes from farm raised Cattle in Missouri.  The beef that Keller uses in his steakhouse doesn't come from Missouri, it comes from Nebraska. Okay, what about how Missouri has an open air market for fresh grown fruits and vegetables and that market has been open for business since 1883 which makes it the oldest market West of the Mississippi.  The market is open every day with food and crops from the local farmers from both Missouri and Illinois. If I was a chef preparing some great food in St. Louis, I would go local for the ingredients; even Gordan Ramsay stresses this in every one of his Kitchen Nightmares shows. Well, Keller gets his produce from Eureka, which while still in Missouri, is perhaps a good hour drive from the restaurant while the Soulard Market is about a 5 minute drive. Considering that St. Louis has no coasts, there is no fresh seafood from St. Louis, so that leaves that out as well. So, you know what is left? Johnathon told us that the water comes from St. Louis and promptly filled our water glasses. Knowing that St. Louis has some of the best water in the US, I took pride in this.

My wife and I opted for the 5 course tasting menu as the chef has prepared it so we thought we should give it a try as he/she knows best and we are just humble foodie people who have no clue as to what we are talking about, snobby chefs think. We had no drinks that could compliment nor hinder the natural flavors of the foods prepared, so no wine, beer or any other drinks, other than the St. Louis crystal clear water.

We did order two additional things: one being the lamp ravioli and another being some mashed potatoes with Perigold truffles, which will be discussed later when they arrive.

The first course was a long, dark dish with a small micro-green salad on the left, a few slices of deep red raw tuna on a bed of perfectly and thinly sliced radish in the middle with a large ceramic spoon with a caviar mix on the right of the plate. It was a dish prepared deconstructed and as such, there were no instructions for eating it and we had to guess. It was an okay dish and my wife, who loves seafood was not impressed.  Quality ingredients but not so inventive. She gave it 3 stars out of 5.

The next course was a seared Halibut resting on a mash of corn and popcorn with a sprinkling of paprika. The fish was good, even more so because I don't really enjoy eating fish as much as I do meats, but the Halibut is a sneaky fish that can take on the flavors of pretty much anything: the chicken of the sea. Overall, this was a very fine dish as with each bite of fish, it was best to get a little corn and popcorn in as well, giving it a very nutty flavor overall. We both gave it 4 stars out of 5.

Since I didn't eat much of the fish, I ordered a small starter of the lamp ravioli, with ratatouille vegetables and a veal au jus.  The ravioli came out, arranged out from center in a small bowl. The vegetables were minced, very tiny, and arranged in a round cylindrical shape in the middle, with the raviolis fanned out from the base in the au jus. There was a half of a cherry tomato on top of the pillar with a stem of fresh thyme sticking in the tomato. It looked wonderful and I dove right into it by removing the thyme and picking up the whole tomato and placing it into my mouth. That is when all hell broke loose. My wife said that my face immediately became contorted as it looked like I was in severe pain. The tomato tasted like I just downed a 40oz. of straight vinegar. The flavor was so intense of that strong vinegar that I could not talk and felt as if I was choking; an near fatal experience that I have gone through a year ago. My manners persuaded me not to spit it out and upon swallowing it, every sense of my being wished me to find and strangle the chef or garde manager or whoever was responsible. I asked our great server as he came by if the tomato had any vinegar and he said it was "lightly marinated." Dear Chef Keller, I don't know if it was you or another chef but lightly marinated things with vinegar should end with you rinsing them off. The marinate is often used to brake down the connective tissues and make it more palatable, not disgusting. I felt like Tom Colicchio and wanted to so badly remove it from my mouth with my hands and throw it on the plate, yelling out for the MOD, but stayed my hand and just drank all of my water instead. The rest of the dish was good: the vegetables were perfectly cooked and reminded me of the ratatouille I make, which is also delicious, the lamb ravioli still had that flavor, that off-gaminess that makes them taste not like any other meat and the au jus had a perfect blend of citrus, mint and meat fat that seemed to come together perfectly. If the dish did not have that tomato, then it would have been a praise worthy dish, along the lines of great chefs like Che Robuchon.  However, because it is the first impression that makes a dish and I can still taste that vinegar flavor, even more than 72 hours away, makes the dish one of the worst I have ever had. Sorry Chef, I give this dish 1/2 star out of 5.

Sleek is supposed to be a steakhouse and after eating at perhaps one of the best steakhouses in the country, Delmonico's, Sleek was no where close what a steakhouse is or feels like.  His Burger Bar, which was located just 100 feet from sleek, is more of a steakhouse than this place.  The dish next was a duo of steaks or of beef.  On one side of the plate, was some peppery seared beef, two small pieces not more than 3-4 ounces each. The peppery beef was perfect as it had a black crust on the outside and still rare on the inside.  When you bit into it, the top of your mouth tastes the black peppery seared crust as your tongue tastes the warm juices from inside of the meat. If that was all there was on the plate, it would have been a 5 out of 5 dish, however there were other things presented on the dish.  The other pieces of beef, were two pieces of tender roast beef. The roast beef was no different than the roast beef I make at home in the Crock pot and we all grew up on.  There was nothing fancy about it at all.  Now, if Keller was attempting to make a duo of where we are going and where we have been, presenting the pot roast as old school and the seared beef as neo-classical, then it would have been a perfect dish. But pot roast? Okay, I will look past the pot roast and the seared beef but there were vegetables on the dish. The vegetables were some fresh carrots and turnips. Neither of them were cooked all of the way and seemed like they were only slightly blanched as the turnips were still raw in the center, clearly undercooked.  This dish, only got 2 stars out of 5 from me.

With the steak meal, came the mashed potatoes, which I had ordered. The potatoes were awesome as they had sliced baked garlic in there with the large pieces of Perigold truffles. The little dish of mashed potatoes was $8 and there was easily $5-$6 of truffles in there so it was definitely worth it.  It was the kind of mashed potatoes that as a German kid like me, you think of no other way to have potatoes. It was a perfect blend of those three ingredients and I can say nothing else but Yum. Chef, this little dish was an easy 5 out of 5 stars.

As we wound down towards the desert dishes, my wife and I started to find ourselves not in a fancy restaurant, but in a nightclub.  What is perhaps one of the stupidest ideas in the restaurant world along side with serving BBQ on weak paper plates is the concept that half of the restaurant turns into an 'ultra lounge' playing loud mixed music and serving drinks while people relax. The loud remix of "Jizz in my pants" was not making the romantic dinner any better, just more lame. About this time is when the server brought us the pre-desert dish, which was another long plate with a small goat cheese creme' brule on one side and some pickled pear on the other side. Now, my wife said that the creme' brule was good and I went for the pickles.  To the untrained person, pickles are a pickles. But for me, I have been spending the past 6 months making and canning pickles as well as other spiced concoctions, jams and preserves. It would compare to trying to fool your grandma about cookies, after knowing that she has been baking cookies for 50 years.  A pickle by any other flavor or name is still a pickle but there must have been something to pickle it or cure it and in this application, which was tasty, but likely not a true pickle.  The pickles as they were called, were from pears, as they still had their sweet flavoring and were presented as only long, thin slices, like fast food french fries. They were colored pink, most likely from the pickling spice and had some rosemary or thyme leaves on top, as a garnish. They were very inedible and the pickling did little to remove the fact that it was a fruit.  This dish gathered 3 out of 5 stars.

The last dish was an apple pie and ice cream, which we both love, in general and nothing is more American than apple pie. It was served on a round plate with 3 indentations. One was for the creme' fresche, the other was for the apple pie, in its own casserole dish and the last for the cinnamon ice cream.  This dish had everything go well with it and it was a perfect dish. We let it cool a bit as it was as hot as magma when it was delivered to us, but after throwing the creme' fresche and the ice cream into the dish, it was very tasty. It was a perfect dish and it did bring you back to eating fresh apple pie and ice cream, just like grandma used to make. While being very good, it was still just apple pie and unless I see some apple pie cooked without a dish and in a pillar with ice cream layered in, perhaps it will be more interesting than this. This dish garnered an easy 4 out of 5 stars.

Overall, the food at this establishment was good, not Emeril or Bobby Flay good, but good. I've had fancier foods at the Burger Bar, when I made my own burger with a black truffle au jus to dip it in.  For the simplicity of the foods the prices did not fully match. If you are to come there, please show up before 9 or 10 in the evening so your quiet meal isn't interrupted by loud music.  I think if they were looking for a name for the place, instead of Sleek, they should have named it Rough.

No comments:

Post a Comment