by Ian Froeb
Last week, I found much to admire in, of all places, an upscale national chain restaurant at a shopping mall. Will lightning strike twice this week as I visit another (slightly less) upscale national chain restaurant at a shopping mall: BlackFinn American Grill (South Brentwood Boulevard & Clayton Road, Richmond Heights; 314-726-5300)?
BlackFinn American Grille serves an appetizer called "Ying-Yang Shrimp." This provocatively titled starter is described on the menu as "crispy shrimp, sweet and spicy Asian sauce." Here I am, blithely assuming the name is an unfortunate typo, and it turns out BlackFinn has accomplished the momentous feat of packing the essence of an entire continent in a single sauce. Damned if that doesn't have "ying-yang" written all over it -- and in an "American Grille," no less!
Needless to say, I had to order it.
Alas, what my server brought forth failed to live up to the sobriquet: a dish of small shrimp, decidedly un-"crispy," tossed willy-nilly over a bed of shredded lettuce. The "Asian" sauce was sweet, all right, but nowhere near spicy. It tasted like sugar syrup thickened with cornstarch. For this I paid $11.99. For that I could have had two orders of BlackFinn's soft pretzels seasoned with garlic butter and Parmesan cheese. These are nothing to write home about, but at least you're not ostensibly writing home from Asia. (The pretzels come with a mustard-cheese dipping sauce that has a nice zip to it.)
Visit Gut Check tomorrow to read the complete review.