Friday, May 18, 2012

Truffles in Ladue Spectacularly Reinvents Itself

I don’t write restaurant reviews on my blog, but a dinner out a few Mondays ago was so memorable that I am sharing it. We had the privilege of sampling the new tasting menu at Truffles, a longtime St. Louis favorite that has gone through a few chefs and reinventions over the years.

The new executive chef, Brandon Benack, has transitioned the menu to that of modern American cuisine with an infusion of Southern classics, while continuing to pay tribute to local artisans and ingredients. Chef Brandon’s resume is impressive, with stints at Emeril Lagasses’ restaurant in New Orleans, three years in Antigua, chef de cuisine at Emeril’s Miami Beach, and as the corporate chef at Norman’s Orlando and Norman’s 180 under the guidance of the “Father of Fusion Cuisine,” Normal Van Aken.

On to the food. While each course was offered with appropriately paired wines, we opted for the 2009 Pezat, Chateau Teyssier – Bordeaux Superiore for our dinner, which is a blend of merlot and cab franc, dark fruit, spice, and firm tannins. A “Craig wine” for sure that worked with all the dishes, especially the one it was intended, the ribeye (more on that shortly). I did enjoy a delish Manhattan too.
We started with broiled plaquemines parish oysters with smoked bacon and manchego. Craig is not an oysters fan, but he agreed these were perfectly prepared. 
A house made mini loaf of bread followed. I typically don’t eat bread, not worth the calories, but Craig said I had to try it. He was right. Warm, chewy but with a delicate crumb, this is one of the best breads I’ve ever tasted.
The next course was seafood gumbo, a dish honed by Chef Brandon’s time in New Orleans, rich, thick, and nicely spiced.
Wedge salad with lump crab, chopped egg, bacon, red onion, cherry tomatoes, and cayenne-buttermilk dressing was up next. Fresh and fun, we appreciated the lightness of the course as we knew what was to come.
Course four was dover sole, blackened and served atop sunchoke puree. I always turn my nose up at the woodiness of sunchokes. These knotty veggies are just not my thing, but in a puree, not bad. The dish was also served with a classic sauce for fish, vierge, with heirloom tomatoes and rich, buttery beurre blanc.
 I lovelovelovelove foie gras. But Craig – let’s just say his palate continues to evolve – which is a good thing, and dishes like help him grow.  It was served with savory caramel, apple butter, candied orange zest, and a (local) pecan pound cake served pan perdu style (prepared similarly to French toast), again a nod to Chef Brandon’s New Orleans background.
Two more courses left. Truffles is in the process (and it may be completed by this publication time) of creating an in-house dry aging program for in its beef – all prime, of course. Additionally, they are in the process of installing a 1600 °F infra-red broiler for preparing its meats. The ribeye, seared perfected pink and medium rare with housemade steak sauce, was served with THE best mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted. Creamy but with a crunchy panko topping, it was perfect. I could eat bowls and bowls of this stuff. Carbs and fat be damned. The local white asparagus was an appropriate side.
On to the final course – what else but Bananas Foster? Prepared from the dining room’s cooktop, which we were privy to be seated next to, it was fun to watch our dessert being flamed.
The chef’s tasting menu is $70 and well worth the splurge. We enjoyed the meal so much that we’re headed there tomorrow night for my birthday dinner. St. Louisans, check it out. You won’t be disappointed.

2 comments:

  1. Denise, nice review. Truffles is within walking distance from my home, we'll have to check it out.

    Hope you have a Happy Birthday!

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  2. Hey, happy birthday! Nice review. We'll have to give Truffles another try. We've had some good things there, but our last meal - this past December - while good seemed really overpriced for what we got. But it sounds like things are looking up. Thanks for the info.

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