Let’s be real: there are heaps of good-to-great restaurants in St. Louis, but two stand at the top – Gerard Craft’s Niche and Kevin Nashan’s Sidney Street Cafe. You can argue, but you’d be wrong. If you’re looking to impress, seduce, congratulate, or wallow in self pity, these are the places to do it. The dinner you see below was of the congratulatory kind – a dinner to celebrate me! I decided to leave the corporate world and make Whiskey and Soba my full-time job.
I have total faith in both Nashan (and Craft), so I’m willing to be more experimental in my ordering at their restaurants. I typically avoid sweetbreads (thymus gland), but Sidney Street found one of my weaknesses: the Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich.
Sidney Street’s version put smoked then fried sweetbreads over a sourdough griddle cake, then thinly sliced jalapeños, radishes, cucumber, fermented daikon, and a dill aioli on top. A few springs of cilantro – a bahn mi necessity – made their way on at the end. The sweetbreads were crunchy and delicate, a surprisingly fitting substitution for the typical sliced pork and pork pate. The crunch and smoke gave a meaty element, while the texture inside had that pate-like softness.
The veal dumplings are a menu staple, one that I thought I remembered eating long ago and not caring for. Wrong. These little dumplings pack a punch of flavor mostly thanks to their teriyaki and honey glaze, but the cilantro salsa on top gives it a bright freshness that makes it pop.
With each entree comes a soup or salad, and each evening there’s a special salad option. My dad opted for the special, which had pickled rhubarb and a chimichurri dressing. I only got a small bite, but the dressing was the herbaceous explosion one would expect from a chimichurri.
How the hell is a chilled pea and mint soup so good? Someone tell me? I feel like people are going to think I’m lying when I say this soup was flat out amazing (or they’ll accuse me of secretly working for Nashan, as someone did previously), but I promise you I’m not.
My dad went the healthy route for his entree, ordering steamed halibut over asparagus and a lemon nage, topped with a halibut chicharron salad. Five balls of dirty farro with crawfish lined the plate. The way he hesitantly gave me only a tiny bite of just fish – no asparagus, no farro, no chicarrons – made me think he enjoyed his meal.
I was fortunate enough to get their lamb Wellington, just days before it was removed from the menu. It’s a perfect example of Sidney Street taking a classic dish – Beef Wellington – and playfully spinning it into something beautiful and different.
Lamb loin topped with herbs and wrapped in puff pastry is the dish’s focal point, flanked by crispy lamb sweetbreads, creamed nettles, and a few drops of some kind of intense lemon puree. The little cauldron on the right side of the dish is a Merguez meatball ragout, a dish so good that I’m salivating just thinking about it again. It’s cheesy, it’s meaty, it’s spicy; it should be an appetizer of its own.
If I went back again tonight, I’d get the grilled quail. The tiny, adorable bird is grilled and served over harissa tossed papas bravas (fried potatoes), charred carrots, and chimichurri. It’s a perfect dish for summer with its smoke and char flavors.
Oh, vanilla ice cream and a chocolate chip cookie! Wrong. That ice cream is popcorn flavored, and unlike most popcorn ice creams I’ve had, it doesn’t taste like movie theater butter/a popcorn Jelly Belly. It tastes like creamy, delicious popcorn. Get it.
Dessert of the year so far for me right here, folks. I typically detest deconstructed dishes. I don’t want to order tiramisu only to receive a plate of Dippin’ Dots. But this…this was something special. A crumbled piece of moist, wonderful carrot cake is served with shards of crispy ginger meringue, dabs of passion fruit gel, black currants, cheesecake puree (a “holy shit” delicious ingredient), and a carrot-passion fruit sorbet.
Pastry chef Bob Zugmaier and his crew looked at what the rest of the kitchen was doing with entrees and apps, said “let’s show them what we can”, then dropped the mic with this.
Sidney Street Cafe
2000 Sidney St
St. Louis, MO 63104