In this series Gut Check tracks down St. Louis' more unusual culinary offerings in hopes of expanding our collective food knowledge and answering the question: Should you really "Eat This?!"
At Syberg's (7802 Gravois Road; 314-832-3560) on Gravois, a massive shark head is mounted on the wall, trophy style, next to one of an unfortunate buffalo. Given St. Louis' distance from the ocean, we found this a bit curious. Luckily, server Beth Scalise, a sixteen-year Syberg's veteran, was on hand to explain that decades ago, the owners of Syberg's would travel south to Florida and do some deep-sea fishing. The family grew to love the taste of shark and eventually said, "Hey, let's bring some shark back to St. Louis." Since then, shark has been on the menu, which is why we're at the bar ordering up some shark tacos.
When we inquired as to where Syberg's gets its shark, a customer at the other end of the bar replied, "From the ocean."
Well done, sir.
But in truth it's not too difficult -- just go through a local vendor. The trick, however, is figuring out how to actually serve it. The chefs created "Shark Chunks," bite-size shark bits grilled with Cajun spices. "Shark Chunks," according to Scalise, "blew up," and became a popular order. Now, Syberg's is going a step further by offering the shark tacos, a real game changer that is basically revolutionizing the way St. Louisans eat their shark. But how does it taste?
Pretty darn good. Shark tacos contain bite-size chunks grilled in Cajun spices and then served on soft tortilla wraps. The bites rest on a bed of creamy coleslaw and are topped off with Syberg's special housemade wing sauce. The shark meat, a lean and healthy source of protein, was a bit tough and chewy, but not in a bad way, just a unique texture. Think grilled shrimp, just thicker and meatier -- more to chew on.
What made the tacos stand out was the combination of spicy shark and creamy coleslaw, which at first sounded pretty awful, but made complete sense after the first bite. The pepper, spice and char flavors were perfectly balanced by the slightly sweet and cooling slaw. Add to that the tangy wing sauce and you've got a wonderful dish. Mediterranean might be the best way to describe the overall taste -- tangy and sweet covering grilled fish.
Syberg's has gone the extra mile to come up with a creative way to serve the villain from Jaws, and we should all take a moment to appreciate that -- it's quite the feat. So remember, even though we're hopelessly landlocked, there's no reason why you can't enjoy some shark -- fins up.
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