#37: Tom Yum Gai at Pearl Café

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The tom yum gai soup at Pearl Cafe - IAN FROEB
  • Ian Froeb
  • The tom yum gai soup at Pearl Cafe
Pearl Café shares the same owners as Simply Thai, which appeared at #71 on this list with its massaman curry. One of the (very few) unstated rules governing my 100 Favorite Dishes is one dish per restaurant, multiple locations included. But, hey, it's my list. Besides, Pearl Café has not only a different but also a different look and some differences in the menu.

And its tom yum gai is too outstanding to ignore.

It's difficult to know where -- or, to be more precise, with which flavor -- to begin when writing about this soup. The smack and heat of chile is the most obvious spot: the broth has the hue of St. Louis brick, and its burn lingers. Yet there is also its mouth-puckering shot of lime juice and the unique flavor, not quite citrus, not quite herb, of kaffir lime leaves.

Galangal and lemongrass taste like nothing except themselves, bitter and sharp respectively. Even the bits of cilantro and scallion make a definite impact. There is mushroom and chicken, too, though these provide more body and flavor.*

What's most remarkable, though, is how no one flavor dominates. Each yields seamlessly to the next, with the broth acting as a savory, spicy backbeat.

* - You can order tom yum with shrimp instead of chicken, if you like.

Pearl Café
8416 North Lindbergh Boulevard, Florissant
314-831-3701
$4.25 (small), $6.25 (large)

I'm counting down -- in no particular order -- 100 of my favorite dishes in St. Louis. Some are well-known, others obscure. Some are expensive, others dirt cheap. All of them, I guarantee, are delicious. Please do not hesitate to share your own favorites via the comments thread.

Previously:

#38: Cassoulet (and Sweetbreads) at Franco
#39: The "Papasan Roll" at Miso on Meramec
#40: Lasagna at Mama Josephine's

#41: The "Bucktown" Pizza at Pi Pizzeria
#42: Pla song kruang at Basil Spice Thai Cuisine
#43: Chori pollo at Mi Ranchito
#44: Pizza at La Pizza
#45: Fried chicken at Young's Restaurant & Ice Creamery
#46: The Philly Cheesesteak at 9th Street Deli
#47: Smoked chicken wings at Flavors BBQ Sports Bar & Grill
#48: Coffee and a pastry at 222 Artisan Bakery
#49: The torta ahogada at Taqueria Durango
#50: The "Morganford Mediterranean" Sandwich at Local Harvest Café & Catering

Previously (Continued):

#51: Vegetable korma at Gokul Snacks & Sweets
#52: Schnitzel & spaetzle at Iron Barley
#53: Oxtail stew at De Palm Tree
#54: Pho at Pho Long
#55: Gyro at Anthonino's Taverna
#56: The Lemon Drop Cupcake at the Cup
#57: Pupusas at Tres Banderas
#58: Gumbo at the Gumbo Shop
#59: The burger at Newstead Tower Public House
#60: Quesadillas tradicionales at Milagro Modern Mexican

#61: "7th Street Sicilian" Po' Boy at Blues City Deli
#62: Tamales at Taqueria la Pasadita
#63: Ćevapi at Bosna Gold
#64: Lemon meringue and pine nut torte at BitterSweet Bakery
#65: Chile Morita con Puerco at Señor Pique
#66: Soda chanh duong (sparkling lemonade) at Lemon Grass
#67: Nachos grande at Nachomama's
#68: Pizza with pepperoni, sausage and mushroom at Pizza-a-Go-Go
#69: Bill's "Burger Meister Burger" at Cardwell's at the Plaza
#70: Sake (salmon) nigiri sushi at Nobu's Japanese Restaurant

#71: Massaman curry at Simply Thai
#72: The lunch buffet at Mayuri
#73: Fried chicken (spicy) at Porter's Fried Chicken
#74: Arancini at Lorenzo's Trattoria
#75: Meat shawarma at The Vine Mediterranean Café & Market
#76: The South Side Smoke at sandwich at Stellina Pasta Café
#77: Falafel at Kabob House
#78: A slice with pepperoni at Feraro's Jersey-Style Pizza
#79: Birria at Pueblo Nuevo
#80: Banh mi dac biet at Phuc Loi

#81: Prosciutto bianca pizza at the Good Pie
#82: Gold Coast Chocolate ice cream at Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream
#83: Hot salami (salam de testa) at Gioia's Deli
#84: Veal parmesan sandwich at Biggie's
#85: Nachos (with jalapeños and extra cheese cup) at Busch Stadium
#86: Lobster bisque at Café Ventana
#87: Calamari fritti at Mangia Italiano
#88: Brisket sandwich at Winslow's Home
#89: Paletas at La Vallesana 2
#90: Spaghetti and meatballs at Sugo's Spaghetteria

#91: The Michael burger at Michael's Bar & Grill
#92: Fried egg and ham toastie at the Schlafly Tap Room
#93: Bavarian chips with Welsh rarebit at Dressel's
#94: Onion soup at Brasserie by Niche
#95: Baby-back ribs at 17th Street Bar & Grill
#96: Kingshighway burger at the Royale
#97: Gyro sandwich at South Grand Gyro Express
#98: Carne asada tacos at El Paisano (Watson Road)
#99: Pretzel bites at Joey B's on the Hill
#100: Hot and sour soup at Shu Feng Restaurant

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