You know how in TV shows they always have amazing group dinners at a friends house and it just looks so fun and delicious? Everyone wants that. Since none of your friends cook you dinners like that, you decide to give it a go and find yourself stressing out the whole day trying to figure out how you sous vide a steak or watching poorly shot YouTube videos of some guy deboning a chicken. Your dinner ends up tasting and looking like airplane food and everyone is either lying to you that it's good or they have terrible palates and you realize you shouldn't be friends with them anyway. The solution to this is to go to Farmhaus in Lindenwood Park (south city). Set in a small building surrounded by houses, you can almost forget you're inside a nice restaurant. The decor is simple and homey, and the staff are personable. The small dining room and communal dishes give it that "I'm at a friends house vibe". But the scene wouldn't be complete without some drinks and food.
The first tough choice of the night was what drink to get. That's So Franco? Cinnamon Blvd? I picked The Harry Nilsson ($10), a mix of coconut rum, Velvet Falernum, blanc vermouth and fresh lime juice. Tasted summery.
Our first starter was the Smoked Fish Dip ($12), accompanied by lavash crackers and crostini, drizzled with a paprika oil. It was the dish of the night for all of us. The dip, as one would expect, had a deliciously smokey flavor. Farmhaus uses Grouper collars in the dish, rather than something more commonly seen, like trout. I don't know what other secret ingredients are mixed into the dip, but its creamy and almost sweet flavors will surely leave you wanting more. It was so good that we thought about ordering another plate of it after our meal was finished instead of dessert. I'm upset we didn't. My previous favorite smoked fish was at Annie Gunn's, but this certainly took its place.
Our second shared starter was the Roasted Ozark Forest Mushroom Salad ($12). I'm not a huge mushroom fan, but the people voted and the majority picked the salad. Chef Willmann made me rethink my mushroom aversion. The roasted mushrooms were tossed with spicy greens, a mild and creamy goat's milk cheese from Baetje Farms, toasted and crunchy Missouri pecans and a warm bacon vinaigrette.
The dish was earthy in the best way. Crunchy, creamy, roasty, spicy, bacony. Great combination, right there.
Next up was the Gulf Cobia ($25) with grilled fingerling potatoes, a wild Missouri ramp puree, English peas, sugar snap peas and smoked cipollini onions. The dish looked like Spring and tasted like Spring. The Cobia's meat is firmer than your average whitefish, making it more comparable to salmon or even swordfish to me. Thicker fish like that aren't my normal preference, but I still enjoyed the dish quite a bit. Upon writing this review, I see that Farmhaus is serving this with Warsaw Grouper now, which makes me jealous. I bet I wouldn't have wanted to share this if I had grouper.
My favorite of the two entrees was the blackened Gulf Sheepshead fish ($23) with spoon bread, Louisiana crawfish and crystal butter emulsion. Sheepshead (aka the fish with human looking teeth) has appeared on a lot of menus here lately, which I am not complaining about. The tender, flakey white flesh seems to go well with all sorts of seasonings and sauces, in this case a Cajun style blackening. The fish had a peppery, crispy exterior with just a bit of a kick. As if delicious fish isn't enough, it rested upon a handful of succulent and soft crawfish and a mound of spoonbread. Spoonbread is like the flabby cousin of cornbread, too soft to pick up with your hands, but perfect for soaking up all the dishes juices. In this case, that's a spicy butter emulsion. Some variation of this dish has been on the menu as long as I can remember for good reason.
Other dinner entrees include steak, meatloaf and their take on breakfast.
Farmhaus' chef Kevin Willmann was named one of Food and Wine's best new chefs in 2011 and has been nominated for his third James Beard award in four years. Incredibly talented and gifted with a delicate touch, he's producing an ever-changing array of inventive and delicious food. Plan a date night (or better yet, a double date--more food to try!) and head down to Farmhaus for a great meal in a nice atmosphere.
St. Louis, MO 63139