A desire for a rather late dinner-after 10 p.m., late by most St. Louis standards-took us to the Central West End and, following our occasional habit of going where a parking place pops up, we went to a spot we hadn’t visited for a while. LiLuMa has settled into the southeast corner of Euclid and Maryland as a near-institution, with its outdoor dining a particular draw. The intersection has an almost-constant stream of interesting foot traffic, and large windows allow folks who prefer air conditioning or the absence of bus exhaust fumes to watch the passing scene from two dining rooms and a short corridor connecting them.
We kicked off with fried okra, southern Americana incarnate, little chunks in a light cornmeal breading, crisp and greaseless, just the dish to convert people who think they don’t like okra. (Many years ago at a church supper in Lamesa, TX, that’s just what happened to Ann.) Tasty alone, equally tasty with the accompanying buttermilk dipping sauce.
An heirloom tomato salad with white anchovies was a don’t-miss, given the time of year. Tomatoes are at their peak, and heirloom varieties are now far more available than they were only a couple of years ago. It looked gorgeous, a tangle of microgreens atop the tomato and the fillets of tangy, salty marinated anchovy laced throughout. But the tomatoes in this $12 salad (the most expensive appetizer that night) were three thin slices of one small oval tomato and one larger, rather mushy, slice of another. Not good enough at that price.
Pastas are priced as first courses, in the Italian style, although they’re also available as entrees. They’re fresh, not dried, reflected in the good texture, slightly chewy but not gummy. Mixed mushrooms sauced one dish, their juices and a some garlic moistening things; the other wore spinach and lemon with a little cheese as an additional accent. Both were excellent, and the latter was very bright and sparkling indeed, unusual and delicious. Each serving was about a cup of pasta plus the toppings.
For those unfamiliar with semifreddo, it’s an Italian dessert, somewhere between mousse and ice cream. Unlike ice cream, it isn’t stirred as it chills out, and it often has gelatin to help it keep its texture, which ideally should be not as hard as ice cream. (The word translates to half-cold.) A lemon semifreddo charmed. Usually creamy lemon things aren’t lemony enough, but this hit the right spot, topped with blackberries and a blackberry coulis. The texture was reminiscent of a Fudgesicle, the firmness that the ice cream business terms quiescently frozen, rather nice as a contrast to the same old same old. Lemon and blackberry always have a good time together, so even the garnish worked well.
On the wine list, there’s a Brachetto d’Acqui sparkling red from Banfi. We thought about the sparkling shiraz from Australia that has been so good and decided to try it, but it turned out to be extremely sweet. Maybe it’s some folks’ idea of an aperitif, but it wasn’t ours. The remainder of the wine list is first-rate, very heavily Italian, with a full range of prices.
238 N. Euclid Ave.
Lunch & Dinner Mon.-Sat.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair
Smoking: NoEntrees: $19-$29