Taste by Niche
"Have you been to Taste yet?" I was asked for the millionth time.
"No, but I'm going this weekend, I think," I replied with a nervous excitement.
"You're going to love it. Craft's teams never let you down," said the voice inside my head.
Hot damn. How is this restaurant not constantly winning awards? And not just on a local level: this is national level deliciousness. This is some Niche-caliber bar food.
I always knew Taste served food, but I thought it was more of a bar than a restaurant. The kind of bar you go to after eating at Brasserie and reluctantly order a couple of small plates after you've had too much to drink. I wasn't entirely wrong. The menu is one page of food and six or so pages of drinks. What I was wrong about is that the food is incredible. Chef Matthew Daughaday is doing amazing things in his tiny kitchen.
My first inebriating beverage of the evening was the [symple_highlight color="blue"]Winnebago Pin-up[/symple_highlight], a ludicrous mix of milage reposado tequila, pepper infused milagro silver, Sump cold brew coffee, zucca amaro, and cucumber. It was under the "robust" drinks section and it certainly lived up to that. I'm a terrible reviewer, though, because I have no idea how to describe this and make it sound good. I'll just say that if you enjoy tequila and coffee separately, you owe it to yourself to try this concoction from the Taste bartenders.
At the recommendation of both our waitress and the chef, we started with the [symple_highlight color="blue"]fried green beans[/symple_highlight] that came with pickled blueberries, a basil aioli and...pinenuts. It's like something from Chopped. Those ingredients don't sound like they go together at all. Once I started digging in, there was no stopping me. Fried green beans should become the new french fry. As crazy as the dish sounded, everything just worked It was like all sorts of bar snacks combined into one. Crunchy, creamy, pickly, spicy.
You know what the dish below is? It's the dish of the night. Yes, it looks like bread with corn all over it, but it was much more than that. The [symple_highlight color="blue"]sweet corn bruschetta[/symple_highlight] was topped with peaches, bacon, shiitake mushrooms, corn (obviously) and the most orgasmic ricotta spread ever made. They take roasted corn, puree it, then use that to cream their house-made ricotta. There's also some cilantro and chili peppers on top, giving this an almost Thai flavor.
The dish is untouchable. Definitely one of the top 10 dishes I've had this year.
Even people that haven't been to Taste seem to know about their [symple_highlight color="blue"]bacon fat fried cornbread[/symple_highlight]. Just reading that, you know what this dish tastes like. You know what it smells like. You know that once you bite into it, you're erasing a day off your life, but it's totally worth it. If you were so inclined, you could take my cornbread recipe and fry that in some bacon fat, if you want to recreate this at home.
Cocktail break. This was the [symple_highlight color="blue"]surfboard fizz[/symple_highlight] made with vodka, watermelon, orgeat, honey, lemon, basil and soda. Very summery.
Taste's bartenders are as good as the chefs at what they do. We had four different cocktails and loved them all. My recommendation: create your own. Tell the bartender what you like and you shall receive. One of ours was tequila, spicy, citrusy and it was scrumptious.
Oh look, a beet salad! How unusual! You never see those anymore, said 2006. It should come of no surprise to know that this was not your ordinary roasted beet salad. No, my friend, it was not. And if you dare insult this salad I will see to it that you are punched directly in the face.
The [symple_highlight color="blue"]smoked beet salad[/symple_highlight] was masterful. Smoking the beets gave them that wonderful woodsy flavor, rather than the normal roasted variety-boring. On top of the beets rested sprigs of dill for that earthy flavor, bright pops of orange and an Arctic Char salt. Yes, a salt made of fish. How many bars, let alone fancy restaurants, are making that? You're salivating and I haven't even told you that it was resting on a house made orange infused ricotta. This is the king of beet salads.
Here's a sneak peek at an upcoming fall menu item: [symple_highlight color="blue"]chicken adobo[/symple_highlight]. Adobo is a Filipino stew made using soy, garlic and most importantly, vinegar. It's unlike any other chicken stew you've had. The chefs kept this fairly traditional, though there was the addition of sweet potatoes that were fried then glazed with butter, brown sugar and cayenne. They also tossed some puffed rice on top to add a little crunch. I was impressed with how much this tasted like my Filipino girlfriend's adobo (hey! I just said you cooked as well as professional chefs! Brownie points for me). Filipino food is scarce in St. Louis, so I recommend you try this when it ends up on the menu. A very good winter dish.
You might want to take a break before you keep reading, because you're about to get hit with some big time dishes.
Ready to proceed?
This is going to be one of THE dishes of this fall. Fall-apart tender pork belly. Pear butter. Foie gras caramel. Endives. Mushrooms. It made me weep.
This was my #2 dish of the evening: [symple_highlight color="blue"]pork bahn mi[/symple_highlight]. They make a pork pate with house made sweet chili sauce, fish sauce, green onion, pepper, and garlic, toss that into a terrine mold, slice it up into sandwich-sized portions and pan sear it. That's tossed onto a toasted Companion roll and dressed with sweet chili aioli, fresh jalapenos, and pickled cilantro. All the elements of a classic bahn mi, just made with that Daughaday touch.
Somehow I forgot to take pictures of the [symple_highlight color="blue"]spiced ricotta gnocchi with lamb sugo[/symple_highlight]. It was excellent.
We barely made a dent in these, but to cap off the meal we had the [symple_highlight color="blue"]churros[/symple_highlight] with almond velvet panna cotta. Matching these airy churros with the dense and deeply rich panna cotta is a great combo, but after all the food we'd already eaten, I could barely manage more than a few bites.
Rose's Luxury won Best New Restaurant 2014 from Bon Appetit with its inventive small plates, but having eaten there and at Taste within a month, there's no comparison for me: I would choose Taste over Rose's every time. Matt Daughaday's food is homey and comforting, porky and gluttonous. This isn't great bar food: this is great food served at a great bar. If they were plated a little differently, these dishes could come out of the kitchens of any upscale restaurant.
It may be too early to say since I've only been there once, but if I have another couple meals of the same caliber at Taste, this is easily one of my top 5 restaurants in St. Louis. Go there. Immediately.
4585 Laclede Ave
St. Louis, MO 63108