Low-key. Yes, that’s the word to describe Truffles. The restaurant has outlasted big-budget competition, parking lot wars, chef changes and economic vagaries, and just keeps humming along. The bar is often very busy, but pass on to the muraled dining room, have a comfortable seat and watch the well-dressed clientele catch up on their gossip. Lunchtime, it’s a quiet place for a business lunch, the low noise level an added attraction.
The menu style is modern American, and the presentation of Chef Scot Oglesby’s creations is often very striking. For example, we had tuna tartare. Instead of scooping it into a ball, as is often done, it was layered in a ring mold with avocado. The tuna had been seared before it was diced, and the avocado cut to the same-size cubes. Surrounded with wonton crisps and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, the visuals were delightful. And being able to make a nacho, as it were, with a little of the tuna and the avocado made, for an excellent balance of flavor and texture. An eggplant napoleon layered slices of lightly breaded eggplant with soft goat cheese, a little steamed spinach and a tomato coulis, another mouth-pleaser with its creamy-crunchy-tart contrasts.
From the lunch menu, we were very pleased with a tower of pork belly. Never has the metaphor of making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear been more apropos. The tender pork belly, all fat carefully removed and the meat shredded, topped a lovely set of ingredients--crisp-coated potato cake as a foundation, then a few leaves of arugula, a slice of fried tomato–ripe, not green. Everything, with all their lovely colors, was heightened by a sprinkle of a garlic vinaigrette, which functioned as a Carolina-style barbecue sauce. Delicious.
Liver and onions is a highlight of both the lunch and dinner menus, testament to its popularity. And it’s remarkably good, the liver carefully trimmed and cooked just as ordered, covered in an onion-y gravy laced with sherry vinegar and studded with bacon, all alongside creamy mashed potatoes.
The beef in the beef bourguignon, says the menu, is tenderloin tips, and there they are, tender and tasty in a wine-laced sauce with mushrooms, onions and all the mysteries of the traditional French kitchen. Served on fresh pappardelle that was slightly al dente, it was European soul food. Plump sea scallops brushed with a Dijon mustard sauce were surrounded by a relish of corn and chopped roasted red peppers, the scallops still tender and juicy after their brief stay in the saute pan. And a boneless rib eye steak was wonderful, a subtle sauce of Dijon and cognac across its top. The only discordant note was that the fingerling potatoes that came with the scallops and steak were, in the case of the larger fingers–or would that be the thumb?–a little too underdone. These are new potatoes, and it’s in their nature to keep their firmness, but this went beyond that.
Ice cream explorers need to visit. The house-made ice creams wander some new byways. A basil and strawberry ice cream sounds a little off-putting, but on the tongue, the flavors balance well, creating something new and familiar at the same time. Guinness ice cream was rich and subtle, a blood-orange honey sorbet tingly and charming. We also tried a coconut roulade with a creamy, almost mascarpone-like filling, and a triple chocolate cake that pleased. But it’s the ice creams that stand out.
Service is generally first-rate, and when it comes to wine, well, John Cain, the GM and resident wine buff has things well enough in hand that the restaurant received the Wine Spectator’s Best International Wine List in America last year. Too imposing? There are 24 wines available by the glass, and there’s a section of the wine list called "25 Wines for $25," so there’s plenty of choice at both ends of the spectrum.
9202 Clayton Rd., Ladue
Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner Tues.-Sat.
Credit cards: All major
Wheelchair access: Good