To order the pan-fried noodles at Pho Grand (3195 South Grand Boulevard; 314-664-7435), you could request the Mi Xao Gion Do Bien, or you could simply ask for #22.02. Either way, something magical happens.
When the dish arrives tableside, a mountain of seafood and vegetables perches on a platter-size disc of golden, crispy noodles. At the edges of the plate, the thin noodles shatter into crisp shards. Meanwhile, underneath the heaping mound of shrimp, fish balls, squid, imitation crab and vegetables, the thick sauce is softening the center noodles back into flexible pasta.
Midway through the meal, individual strands of noodle start crunchy and then soften, until they whip the gravy-like sauce onto your chin. The next day -- the menu states that the dish serves two, so leftovers are a given -- the vegetables and noodles taste and feel like a more typical, albeit delicious, Vietnamese noodle dish.
Through some kind of sorcery, Pho Grand manages to make a single dish for two feel like a culinary cornucopia.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
#70: Turkey Melt and Field Greens Salad at Schlafly Bottleworks #71: The Vegetarian Platter at Ranoush #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