Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Restaurant 19: 1111 Mississippi (St. Louis)

RESTAURANT: 1111 Mississippi
LOCATION: 1111 Mississippi Ave, St. Louis, Missouri
DATE: May 13, 2005
FOOD: Fire Roasted Artichoke and Tomato Soup, “1111 BLT”: Lobster, Bourbon Apples, Thyme Rhoulade, Watercress on grilled sourdough
PRICE: $15.00

Lunch epitomizes middle child syndrome. Overshadowed by its attention getting big brother dinner and by the cute and adorable endearments of breakfast, even New York power lunches and Hollywood hobnobs, leave lunch the least desirable meal, more perfunctory than pleasing. Well, at least that’s my opinion. Generally, when lunch rolls around, it’s more nuisance than expectation, as I’d either rather be hungry for dinner or I’m still full from breakfast. I know many restaurants can do lunch extremely well. The thing is, most days, I just don’t care.

But when I have a good reason to miss breakfast, lunch can aid the gastro-void like Catherine Barkley in Farewell to Arms. Such an opportunity presented itself on the initial day of my mini-vacation to Missouri (I know, I should have gone to the Bahamas). Libby, despite the trepidation of having to choose a restaurant for my, let’s face it, snobbish tastes, suggested 1111 Mississippi (guess where it’s located?) for the first of my Missouri musings. Contrary to the course of the rest of our relationship, on this at least, she was right. Will wonders never cease.

Unconfined by the high priced rents and space constrictions of New York City, 1111 has the room to create a slick, contemporary design with colors as bright as a Van Gogh canvas during one of his not-so-crazy periods. Goldenrod canopies overhang the windows and leave diners in a surreal sunshine haze. There is an also an intricate fountain made entirely of wine bottles near the entrance that adds a neighborhoody, “we support local artists” type feel to the place.

The menu, while not overwhelming innovative, also offered more than the tired salads and sandwiches of every other pseudo high-end American cuisine enclave. One such offering, perhaps the most imaginative option on the menu, was the 1111 “BLT”. I left traditional BLTs behind in childhood, figuring it was somewhat senseless to pay for a sandwich that was better made by my mom. But there’s nothing traditional about 1111’s version. The “b” is for the bourbon (granny smith) apples, more tart than sweet, and a sharp contrast to the liquid smooth of the “t” thyme mayonnaise that sits in a slather on the two slices of sourdough. But the “l” is the best part – fresh, unadulterated steamed lobster, tender and delicious. A few fresh sprigs of watercress completed the sandwich which had just as much crunch and crispness as its namesake but far more flavor. Lobster can do so much on its own that it was wonderful to see 1111 understood this and let the lobster alone. It made this a sandwich I will crave forever after and changed the way I will look at bacon versions of BLTs from now on. I might have to suggest the whole lobster bit to my mom the next time she offers to make me a sandwich.

The seasoned fries accompanying the BLT were also amazing, heavy on the pepper and salt in a manner that shows 1111 would rather be bold than passive. The seasoning helped the fries stand out and be more than a typical side. I was however, disappointed by the roasted artichoke and tomato soup Libby and I split to begin the meal. Pepper was the dominant flavor in this soup, with the tomato and artichoke as lost as Linda Tripp in a GNC. Thankfully this was how we began our meal, while the BLT was how I ended it.

1111 made me optimistic about the St. Louis food scene. I came expecting Ruby Tuesday’s and left with something closer to a Manhattan bistro, which was fine by me. If Danny Meyer’s Shake Shack can copy St. Louis’ custard, St. Louis can copy New York’s flair. Just don’t expect me to start extolling lunch’s merits anytime soon.

RATING: 7.4/10

No comments: