Last night my husband and I went to Niche. It was a memorable experience. From the moment I walk in through the door, the atmosphere makes me feel as though I am in another city. I am not sure that this reaction is one that Gerard Craft wants, but it's there for me nonetheless. I say that because Gerard not only got the "establishment" to look at St Louis with his outstanding talent, but he is a huge St Louis booster, and he is doing whatever is in his power, to bring even more culinary interest to our city. We are blessed with talent.
Before I get to our meal, I'd like to point out that the decor, the lighting, the intimacy, the friendliness and knowledge of the staff, all combine to make dining there delightful. I say that knowing that this Summer, Niche will be moving to new quarters in Clayton, and I hope that these qualities will not be lost.
Now to our food.
Chuck and I started our meal with Celery Root Soup. It was absolutely amazingly delicious. The texture of the broth was silken. First the warm bowl came from the kitchen with a still life of crunchy wheat berries , tiny pieces of grapefruit and tarragon. Then in a separate container the soup was poured over this assemblage in a creamy, hot stream. The flavor and the different textures on your tongue hit all the high spots; salty, sweet, tart, and crunchy. It was so good I asked Carrie, our wonderful waitress to bring spoons so I could give the people sitting next to us, whom we did not even know, a taste. Earlier, they had shared some squid ink drenched bread that had been deep fried on their choice of first course, Lobster, with Celery,Green Apple and Togarashi Hollandaise. These are the kinds of things that happen at Niche.
Next, my Honey had Wild Steelhead, with Fennel, Blood Orange, Pistachio. This is a fish in the trout family with pink flesh. The fennel was roasted and caramelized, the sauce was blood orange and a kaffir lime reduction, and the pistachio was a puree mixed with marscapone cheese. There were what looked like very delicate potato chips that turned out to be the very thin, crispy skin of the Steelhead, that Carrie said is called pescarone. The plate was gorgeous; the pale pink of the fish, the red of the blood orange sauce, the soft green of the pistachio-marscapone and the pale golden brown of the fish skin that somehow was perched on its edges. It was not only delicious but exquisite.
My choice was Pork Duo, that consisted of Smoked Pork Shoulder, Pulled Belly, Popcorn Polenta, and Hickory Broth. Talk about flavor and texture! it was a tour de force. The pork shoulder had been smoked so that the flavor was perfect, not too smokey but delicious, and had been pulled apart into tender morsels. The pork belly was fatty and yummy. The popcorn polenta was wonderful. The popcorn had been popped in butter, pureed and mixed with the polenta which was then made into a cake and seared. To make something delicious even more so, the cake was topped with crispy pork cracklings. All of this was enhanced by a thin hickory broth that married all parts together beautifully. Amazing.
Our dessert came on a long, thin white plate. On it was Beet Micro Sponge Cake, Coconut Chocolate Crumble with Dehydrated Beets, Orange Sambucca Sorbet, Dark Chocolate Ice-Cream, Walnuts and Dill.
What a fabulous meal.
1831 Sidney Street
St Louis MO 63104