Entering Ranoush (200 North Kirkwood Road, Kirkwood; 314-726-6874) is like stepping into a scene out of Arabian Nights. Sequined tapestries line the walls, brass lamps hang from the ceiling and intricately carved metal rings hold the napkins and silverware. Gut Check uncovered something much better than a flying Persian rug or a magic genie.
The vegetarian platter at Ranoush combines the best of the restaurant's vegetarian appetizers and provides a sampling of classic Syrian food. The platter includes the chef's choice of five hot or cold mezza, or small plates, and is served with fresh pita bread. Although the chosen mezza might vary, all of the samplings are guaranteed to please.
The night that Gut Check ordered the platter, we received Ranoush's house-made hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel, tabbouleh and the wild card, muhammara. The baba ghanoush had a perfect proportion of tahini, garlic and eggplants, and the tabbouleh was lightly seasoned with lemon juice, and refreshed our palates between bites of hot pita and smooth hummus.
The standout part of the platter was the falafel -- crispy and brown on the outside, soft, warm and spicy on the inside. We were pleasantly surprised by the muhammara's texture and consistency. The finely-chopped oriental nuts were mixed with a variety of spices, and the spread was a nice departure from some of the more classic mezza.
Whether you've been craving favorites such as hummus and tabbouleh, or you're looking to try something new, the platter offers the best of both worlds. Along with one of the restaurant's signature mojitos, you'll feel as if you're living the life of a sultan.
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.
#72: Vegetarian Meatballs at Lucas Park Grille #73: Sizzling Rice Soup at Hunan and Peking Garden #74: Straw and Hay Pasta at Trattoria Marcella #75: Spaghetti Pomodoro at Babbo's Spaghetteria #76: Shrimp Fajitas at El Matador #77: Vegetable Quesadilla at Chava's #78: Companion Rustic Olive Bread #79: Salt and Pepper Shrimp from Wei Hong #80: Ba-Mee Mhoo Dang at Basil Spice #81: Catfish Platter at the Gumbo Shop #82: Shrimp & Andouille Flatbread at the Shaved Duck #83: Vegetarian Pasta at Terrene #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