by Ian Froeb
Updated with comments from Mike Randolph after the jump.
For the first live broadcast of their podcast, our friends at Stewed STL had Mike Randolph, owner of The Good Pie (3137 Olive Street; 314-289-9391) and the two-in-one restaurants Half & Half and MEDIAnoche (8135 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-0719), as a guest.
Randolph gave Stewed quite the scoop: MEDIAnoche, which debuted in late January of this year, will close on Saturday, August 18.
The two-in-once concept will continue in the Half & Half space, however. Randolph told Stewed he plans to open a new concept called Little Country Gentleman. This will feature tasting menus (three dishes, six dishes and more) highlighting Midwestern cuisine.
Update: (Tuesday, July 10, 5 p.m.)
"We just outgrew it," Randolph tells Gut Check of his decision to end the MEDIAnoche concept. At the beginning, he explains, "It wasn't that ambitious of a menu. We sold a lot of tacos. Little by little, we started to do a bit more in the kitchen."
Randolph says the turning point was three months ago, when he promoted intern Dale Beauchamp to chef de cuisine: "We just started cooking and having fun.
"It got frustrating. We'd bring in these beautiful products, but adults would order cheese quesadillas."
For his new direction, Randolph looked to Sean Brock, whose Charleston, South Carolina, restaurant Husk has received wide acclaim for showcasing the bounty and heritage of the region: "I've followed Sean Brock's career. I thought what he was able to do at Husk was great."
Randolph hopes Little Country Gentleman, named for an heirloom variety of sweet corn known for its staggered rows of kernels, can do the same for the Midwest: "When people think of Midwest cuisine, they think of very meat-centric, heavy, clunky food. The reality is we have some of the most amazing produce, even year-round. We have some great stuff in the winter: rutabaga, carrot, parsnips, potatoes, greens.
"It's not going to be a place to get sixteen-ounce pork chop with smashed potatoes," he says. "It's going to be refined cuisine."
The format will be exclusively tasting menus: three courses, six courses and a "grand" tasting menu. For the three-course meal, diners will be able to select from two options for each course. In a rough-draft menu that Randolph details for us, they would choose between a cucumber salad or a clarified-tomato soup; a sweet-corn soup with smoked trout or a sweetbreads dish; and then pork with raisins and kale or lamb with chantrelles and blackberries. The kitchen will dictate the six-course and grand tasting menus.
"As daunting as the idea of tasting menus is, it's really good exposure," to different dishes, Randolph says. "And you're getting good value."
(As Randolph points out, $35 for three courses compares favorably to the cost of, say, a salad and a steak at an upscale restaurant.)
Randolph concedes that the change is not without its risks: "We just had our most successful month at MEDIAnoche."
"It's a little scary," he admits. "But that's what we want to be doing."
RFT Review of Medianoche (May 31, 2012)