Friday, March 4, 2011

R e v i e w: Farmhaus

In the last five years, St. Louis has experienced a culinary revolution. Why you ask? Because of a few innovative chefs who have put their heart and soul into bringing great and interesting food to the Midwest. Along with Gerard Craft (Niche) and Kevin Nashan (James Beard award semi-finalists!!), Kevin Willmann completes the culinary trifecta with Farmhaus, his fresh and local take on fine dining. Rather than trying to create the newest things in food, the idea of Farmhaus is getting the freshest ingredients possible, from the best providers, and keeping things simple. The community-esque approach makes this seemingly tiny dining room an intimate and open space to break bread and dine with those whose company you truly enjoy. 

While it's no surprise that I'm a fan of more modern cuisine, there's something to be said about doing simple food extremely well. Their idea is essentially small plates that are meant to be shared, so 2-3 per person, the waitress said, should have been ideal for us. We ended up getting 4 dishes, and though sufficient for our empty bellies, had we been any hungrier we would have left with empty wallets. Sadly, there is a price to pay for fresh, local ingredients cooked to perfection.

We started with cocktails [a gummy bear vodka tonic…delic], and before settling on a bottle of wine, used this wonderful thing we like to call democracy, to decide what dishes to order. The three of us each picked three dishes we really wanted, and whichever dish lined up with the others was an automatic in. The rest we tousled over until finally deciding on a wonderful array of goodies: caramelized onion and apple tapenade, “breakfast,” escolar, and the filet. Followed by two amazing desserts: a pecan financier and an apple pie. In the end, it was great food, even though great food always comes at a high price. But since this was a special occasion, it was worth it, especially because the chef gave us a better bottle of wine since the one we chose was sold out, and for the same price!!
Caramelized onion and apple tapenade with house ricotta cheese and crostini: the balsamic on the crostinis was amazing, aged and acidic, the perfect mix for cutting against the sweetest of the onions and the creaminess of the ricotta; however, there were too many caramelized onions in relation to apple and ricotta, so it became difficult to eat at time, but the prosciutto added a nice smokiness to an otherwise sweet-ish dish. 
 “Breakfast”:  rendered and roasted Berkshire pork belly, house maple link sausage, corn flour blinis, maple butter, Rutherford Farms egg: OMG SO GOOD -- this was my favorite dish. I usually don't like runny egg yolk but the way this was cooked was divine, the egg yolk was creamy and not as runny but not solid. The corn blinis were also so delicious and had this amazing maple butter, it was like eating a little slice of heaven. 
Escolar with prawns and broccoli rabe: the prawns were perfectly cooked - butter poached to perfection, and of course, if you're a prawn head type of person, that part was good, too. The escolar was delicate and fairly good, but it was a little underseasoned, in some bites it seemed like it didn't have any real flavor, maybe it could have used a sauce? The broccoli rabe was crispy and I usually don't like it, but Dave and Alex did, so there's that. 
8 oz. Filet with smashed sweet and Yukon Gold potatoes, Augusta port gastrique, glazed baby carrots: OMG so good. This was cooked medium rare, although I am convinced that my portion was cooked on the line teetering rare...the jury's still out as to the done-ness, but it was juicy and delicious and the port wine sauce that came with it really made the dish. At the end, Alex and I took turns eating the rest of the potatoes with the leftover sauce...and yes to answer your question, I would have licked the plate clean, but alas, I was in public. 
Pecan Financier with coffee ice cream and candied pecans: the cake was a pretty dense cake but we didn't mind this as it was insanely delicious, and definitely the better choice of the 5 desserts. the coffee ice cream was superb, you could really taste the coffee but at the same time it went so well with the pecans and caramel, there was nothing left when we finished!
Apple pie with caramel ice cream: this was almost like an empanada, fried, and filled with delicious and perfectly cooked granny smith apples...not much to say about this, because again, this was simple food done right: a traditional apple pie in a crunchy gooey form!

So the following is an extremely crude, yet sophisticated (?), review system, complete with designations, 1 § being the worst, and 5 § being the best! I know…it’s so legalese. Anyways, Farmhaus in a nutshell:

Service: §§§§
Ambiance: §§§
Wine: §§§ 1/2
Taste: §§§ 1/2
Overall: §§§ 1/2


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