by Ian Froeb
Today Gut Check launches our most ambitious project yet: an accounting of the 100 dishes in St. Louis that you must eat right now. These are the best dishes at the newest restaurants and the newest dishes at the best restaurants. These are the 100 dishes that define St. Louis dining in 2013. Our list culminates this fall when the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2013 names the "Best Dish" of the year.
I decided to begin this Gut Check One Hundred 2013 with the answer to a question: "What dish that you've eaten in the past few months do you find yourself still thinking about more often than any other?"
I didn't have to ponder that question very long: the khao soi at Fork & Stix (549 Rosedale Avenue; 314-863-5572), the tiny, terrific Thai restaurant that opened last fall on the eastern frontier of the Delmar Loop.
Khao soi ($8) is a curry-noodle soup that is the specialty of the northern Thai city of Chiang Mai. Or so the Fork & Stix menu describes it. This doesn't quite prepare you for what arrives from the kitchen: a large bowl with noodles and grilled steak (or chicken, if you prefer) in a shimmering, iridescent yellow-orange broth atop which floats a towering tangle of fried egg noodles. On the side is a small dish with sliced red onion, pickled cabbage and a lime wedge. You add these, and a roasted-chile sauce, to taste.
The broth looks and, at first, tastes like a yellow-curry sauce: the sweetness of coconut milk balanced by spices both warm and bright. Though thinner in body than a typical curry sauce, the khao soi packs a much deeper flavor, its backbone a briny fermented funk of fish sauce and shrimp paste. Be liberal with those garnishes: All of them, especially the pickled cabbage, strengthen the soup's punch. I've never eaten anything quite like khao soi, and even after I'd finished the beef and noodles in my bowl, I kept spooning up the broth, happily chasing more nuances of flavor than I can possibly recount here.
Is there a dish that you think belongs among the Gut Check One Hundred 2013? Let us know!