by Bryan Peters
At Terrene (33 North Sarah Street; 314-535-5100), chef Michael Warhover and owner John McElwain have struck gold with the vegetarian pasta entrée on the restaurant's spring menu. This isn't the token vegetarian pasta you so often see in less inventive kitchens. This eggless, whole-wheat pasta is made in-house, good enough to be served in any true pasta house in the country. They add tempeh for extra protein and texture, making the dish tasty and healthy as well.
An even more wonderful touch: fiddleheads, tender (and much underused) baby fern fronds that have yet to unfurl (thus the name), which deliver a fresh crunch and a ton of omegas. The other vegetables -- roasted shallots, oyster mushrooms and baby turnips -- contribute unique textures and flavors; the fondue made with local goat cheese pulls it all together. To hyperbolize only a smidgen, it's a masterpiece.
One caveat: The dish costs twenty bucks. No small sum, but you're not just paying for ingredients here; you're paying for the care put into the food -- fresh pasta is a simple recipe, but it requires time and expertise -- and the pleasure of eating locally sourced produce. Such painstaking attention to detail is what sets the best restaurants apart from the rest.
(It doesn't hurt that the folks at Terrene are so damn friendly.)
Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at email@example.com.
#84: Seafood Stuffed Mushrooms at Zia's #85: Legend Club at LeGrand's Market & Catering #86: City Coffeehouse & Crêperie's Nutella-Banana Crêpe #87: Raw Vegetable Lasagna at Scape #88: Quesadilla Azteca from Tower Tacos #89: The Perfect Pear at Foundation Grounds #90: Banh Mi Sandwich from Sweet Art #91: Chicken and Dumplings at Yummies Soul Food Cafe #92: Cuban Sandwich from La Tropicana #93: The Prosperity at Ruma's Deli #94: Cherry Cheese Danish from Missouri Baking Company #95: Bread Pudding with Whiskey Sauce at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse #96: Egg Salad Sandwich at Township Grocer #97: Cheeseburger and Fries (Extra Crispy) at O'Connell's Pub #98 Mussels & Fries at Brasserie by Niche #99: Beef Taquitos Mexicanos at El Indio #100: Spinach Artichoke Dip at Cafe Eau