Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Niche, best of luck because I'm your niche market!!!!

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the food culture in St. Louis is dead.  But, it is slowly coming back.  Sauce and Feast magazines will push some of the great restaurants in the area as they bring life back to this city, like a small village pushes their tall tales and mythology.  Every media facet has its favorite place, be it 1111 Mississippi, Farmhaus or even Niche.  Who are the customers of these beacons of hope in this St. Louis cuisine? Um, I am one of them.

Sure, I understand that the majority of the clientele, are rich, stuffy people from St. Louis, driving into the parking lot of these places with their Lexus and over-priced autos.  However, after that tier of eater, comes people like me: the foodie.  Over the past 8-9 years, I have been watching shows on foodnetwork and even was so inspired to get a degree in holistic nutrition as well as a certificate in personal chef and culinary arts.  I love cooking and cook whenever I can.  I spend time creating simple things like chocolate chip cookies to complex things like strawberry juice caviar.  I am the very definition of the new foodie.  I am someone who loves food, loves to cook food, eat food and wants to know everything about food.  I am the main demographic behind much of the shows on Food Network and on the Cooking Channel.  I am part of the future and when those rich customers die or stop going to places in the area, these restaurants will have to swoon my generation into going to their spots and spending our hard-earned money.

I've said it before, that sometimes the truth hurts and it is sad for me to say that out of the three restaurants I have listed, Farmhaus is by far the best one there. Eleven-Eleven was a good spot to go to, to get an idea of how people treat the foodies of St. Louis.  At Eleven-eleven Mississippi, they blind you with their open environment and atmosphere and make you believe that all of their Tuscan and Northern California inspired food tastes like their Wild Boar Ravioli.  Unfortunately, that is not the case and some dishes are a far miss from wonderful Tuscan or Northern California food. If they were going for that inspiration, it makes sense that some of the food could not be of the very best to everyone, but you can't run a restaurant with bad service, even though you try to do so.

Farmhaus is by far the best restaurant of that caliber in St. Louis.  Farm to table isn't a new idea, but so many want to do this and fail in doing so.  Not only does Farmhaus do this wonderfully, but they also have perfect service to match.  They can take reservations even same day and sit you within minutes of your reserved time.  Their restaurant was small, maybe seating less than 50-75 guests, but that didn't stop them from seating everyone they could, and still provide enough room for people to stretch their arms out and not touch another person.  The food at Farmhause was inventive, creative and delicious.  As well as reasonably priced.  A perfect place which may be where I go this weekend.

Now, for my rant on Niche, where do I begin....?  I haven't been there.  While some would argue that you can't judge a restaurant you haven't been to, I would argue that I totally can. I write my reviews and blog in such a way that I wish to appeal to the average person looking for a way to feed their mind, soul and stomach all at the same time.  I want to recommend what I think is a great place and one that they will love.  I can't recommend Niche.  It is not that I can't get there, I have a car, or that I can't pay for it, I have the money.  But it is that I cannot get there during a reasonable time.  Well, am I being bratty?  What is a reasonable time for you?  The restaurant is open between 5pm and 10pm, when would you like to eat there? 

Four times now, weeks and even a month apart, I have called up and tried to make a reservation for dinner time, the time I like to eat my dinner. Every time I have called, I have been told that the only opening is after 9:30pm on a night which closes at 10pm.  That's right, they would seat me down, then rush me to order so that they can close down the kitchen and push me out and close the restaurant.  Doesn't seem like a good and relaxing dining experience to me, now does it?  "Can I get any other times?"    I called recently when I tried calling for reservations for this Saturday, when today is Wednesday, thinking that 3 days of notice should be enough.  I was told that before 5:45 or after 9:30 was the only spots they had open.  I then asked about how far in advance I should call for a reservation.  My answer: 2-3 weeks. 


Who do you think you are?  Owners and people of Niche, let me tell you give you some examples: When I visited Las Vegas, near Valentines Day of this year, I called RM seafood, less than 24 hours away from the time I wanted, and got it.  Not only did I get the spot I wanted, but they had a wedding reservation there and was still able to get a seat with excellent service and food.  RM is arguably one of the best, if not THE best restaurant in Las Vegas.  The chef and the restaurant are internationally known and recognized and I could get a spot in less than 24 hour notice. 

Who else can get me a spot on Saturday night, between 6:30 and 7:30, by reserving now?  Well, I could get a reservation for 7:00pm, Saturday night at Morimoto's restaurant in New York.  Yep, Mr. Iron Chef himself.  Perhaps one of the world's most recognizable and skilled chefs and I can get in his restaurant with a 3 day notice.  I saw everything online and only had to click "Reserve Table" and the spot is mine.  But I got to thinking, who is bigger than Morimoto?  Surely it is impossible to get into Joel Robuchon's restaurant with 3 days of notice, right? 

Wrong.  I am one click away from saving the 6:30pm spot at his restaurant in Paris.  That's right, named the Chef of the Century, last century, no one steps on his toes or says a bad thing about him.  Even Anthony Bourdain, whom loves to say and write bad things about other chefs, had nothing but good things to say about Mr. Robuchon and I can get a spot in his restaurant by reserving 3 days ahead.

So, Niche, are you really that important?  Are you above Rick Moonen at RM? Are you above Morimoto?  Are you above Robuchon?  I'm sorry, but for some of us foodies with kids, it is hard to find babysitting, even 2-3 weeks ahead, as things can change.  I don't even know what I am doing this Sunday or even this Friday.  
So, my suggestion, for anyone looking to go to a nice place, out of what I mentioned, go to Farmhaus.  If you are in Las Vegas, go to RM.  I'm sorry, as much as I want to support and help St. Louis businesses, if the business isn't willing to take the time for me, I'm not willing to take the time for them.  Niche, I will not be going to your restaurant.  With the way your service is run and your "waiting list" I don't see you sticking around much longer.  No restaurant in St. Louis is worth calling and waiting 2-3 weeks ahead of time.      

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