Is it really 16 years that The Crossing has been feeding us? Hard to believe the spot that New York's Restaurant Daniel (as in Bolud) begat is that far into middle-age-for-a-restaurant. Over the years, they haven't blunted the food, dumbed it down, in any appreciable way. When asked ten years ago or so if he would add outside dining to his flagship, his response was, "Nope. This isn't outside food."
And indeed it is not the casual sort of chow that doesn't keep the attention of the diner. They continue to deliver food for those who want something to ponder over. There are still some of the see-and-be-seen crowd there, to be sure, but it's the opposite of the Restaurant Of the Moment, people who appreciate what they're eating and the smooth service that delivers it. The dress (particularly, one suspects, at this time of year) is more casual than it once was, and there is none of that "hallowed ground" feeling in the air, though.
Not surprisingly, the menu reflects what's available at any given time, but some things are a constant. The first example is more than constant, it's a tradition, the crock of onion-cheese souffle that arrives warm at each table with crostini for dipping or spreading. Addictive, that's the only word. One could spent far too much time at the small bar with wine and this.
Another example is the goat cheese and beet salad. Was The Crossing the first in St. Louis with it? Layered and topped with a small tangle of watercress, it still charms, the earthy deep notes of the beets a classic contrast with the delicate tang of the cheese, and a little pesto to swoop bites of the combination through. Our soup du jour (or soir) was a cold corn soup, seemingly very simple, so that its rich flavor of pure sweet corn was a surprise. Local tomatoes and a supporting cast of roasted peppers, red onions, blue cheese and some lemon-touched greens stood out.
The Crossing's common ownership with Acero in Maplewood is evident with a single bite of a pasta offering - plus the fact that Acero's signature egg raviolo is on the menu. A bite of stracci, "ragged" pasta, with a fine classic Bolognese sauce, tomato mellowed with a little cream, proved it, the sauce nubbly with bits of beef and vegetable, the pasta properly al dente. A crab cake, creamy interior and crisp exterior, rode a pool of nicely tangy remoulade sauce, with a few leaves of arugula to wipe up its last drops.
From the main courses, tilapia, normally a snoozer of a fish, came sauced with a killer mushroom beurre blanc sauce, absolutely singing on the plate, and accompanied by flash-sauteed baby spinach, a particularly remarkable dish. Slices of lamb loin, spiced in the Moroccan style with cinnamon and cumin and a little pepper, lean, tender and moist, excelled. A strip steak, carefully trimmed, had a wild mushroom sauce that enhanced the meat's already first-rate flavor.
The menu offers two tasting meals, at $32 or $45 per person, four courses. Many items from the regular menu are on the tasting menus, and those that aren't can be swapped out for what seems like a relatively minor upcharge. The steak was an extra $5, but like all the courses in the tasting menu, it was smaller than the stand-alone dish would have been - this was perhaps a 5- or 6-ounce serving. It's a nice opportunity to try many things and not waddle out feeling like you've had Thanksgiving dinner.
Dessert? Peach upside down cake, more delicate than what my aunts used to make by far, and some good peaches, tart-sweet as the early ones are. Mixed berry cobbler, an individual ramekin, with a streusel-ish topping, and some lemon mascarpone gelato. A deeply chocolate single-layer gateau, served warm. And a cheese plate.
The usual pleasant, knowledgeable service, patient with a rather gabby group of guests at our table and not removing plates before every one was finished with a course - one shouldn't have to mention this, but it's come up recently at a spot that should know better.
7823 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton
Lunch Mon.-Fri., Dinner Mon.-Sat.
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Fair
Entrees: $33-$38 (but see tasting menu discussion above)