Restaurant fiends like me know about cursed locations, spots that, no matter who opens what kind of eatery, cannot sustain a successful restaurant. But after eating at Reeds American Table I have begun to consider that theory's opposite: The blessed location.
Reeds had rather a lot to live up to in the site of the former Home Wine Kitchen. They've gone at their task with gusto.
Matthew Daughaday, as most of the St. Louis food world knows by now, opened the restaurant after guiding Gerard Craft's Taste for three years. The years creating small plates have left their mark on the Reeds menu; no one who ate at Taste will complain at that. Andrey Ivanov is their sommelier, so the wine list is bound to be exciting, and there are plenty of cheeses to try mixing and matching with his wines, either before, after or instead of a meal.
There's been a lot of to-do over the beef cheek appetizer. It's merited. The gently braised beef cheeks are spooned over focaccia, the better to absorb the juices. They're topped with roasted tomatoes and dribbled with a cream-foie gras sauce, some fresh arugula lighting atop the dish. It goes beyond succulent, right into suave, the slight bitterness of the arugula and the umami of the tomato adding to the gastronomic chord that's being played. A dish simply described as "Al Pastor" brought forth another braise, this one with pork, the seasoning, as the name hints, Mexican, slightly sweet, some pineapple juice in the braising liquid.The meat tops an arepa, a fat corn cake with a crisp exterior. Thin-sliced radishes, cilantro and queso fresco showed the red, green and white of the Mexican flag with a little quite spicy salsa of roasted tomatillos. I'm told the bacon-fat fried cornbread migrated from Taste with Daughaday. Slices of cornbread are indeed griddled, making them nicely crisp, but I got no taste of bacon at all. Perhaps it was lost in the honey-thyme butter slathered atop both slices while they were hot, sensuously melting into the bread when they arrived. Good, yes, but definitely bacon-deficient.
Our pork chop proved to be moist and tender, a cream sauce with a hit of marsala in it but not enough to make it gooey-sweet, some sauteed mushrooms, a shower of walnuts and some quarters of roasted red potatoes - this is a fine potato house; the Queen was pleased. Another potato example was the rosti with a butcher steak. Rosti are Swiss, shredded potato sauteed in a large cake, and this was particularly well-seasoned. The nicely beefy steak's green sauce was garlic and parsley and olive oil, and that went well, too with sauteed sweet peppers and onion of some piperade.
More pig in the form of a pork shoulder sandwich, shreds of meat as part of a complex-sounding combination of balsamic onions, apple butter mayonnaise - yes, please bear with me - pepperoncini and arugula on ciabatta. Polyglot? Perhaps. But delicious, a nice balance of flavor and textures, some heat, some sweet, some chewy and some crisp. It's a fine sandwich. It may, however, have been exceeded by the fries alongside. Almost shoestring-skinny, they were hot, crisp, the sort of thing to snatch up quickly before they cool. Equally good with or without the aioli served alongside, both the Potato Queen and I agree. There's the polite gesture of ketchup, but this needs to stand alone or the blessing of garlic.
All dessert menus should have chocolate on them; this Table offers chocolate mousse, delicately light but with fine chocolate, not only topped with whipped cream but with some pine nut brittle and segments of blood orange, whose raspberry notes worked nicely. A date cake, its single layer holding those warm spices that bring to mind the winter holidays' foods, was garnished with slices of candied kumquats, a caramel of burnt honey, some of the underappreciated black walnuts and an oval of frozen yogurt, not the kind that tries to pretend it's ice cream, but properly tart, a great contrast to the cake.
Very good service indeed, probably more remarkable because they're operating both the street-level bar/dining area and their second floor. One wishes, of course, the noise level was lower, but at least downstairs it was merely difficult but not impossible. I hear the upstairs is a little better, but can't speak from experience.
Noise levels, while a potential source of annoyance, are never something to make me stop going to a restaurant. Food, ambiance and service are NOT equal factors for me. Food carries more importance than anything else, followed by service. Reeds American Table hits a sweet spot.
Reeds American Table
7322 Manchester Rd., Maplewood
Credit cards: Yes
Wheelchair access: Snug