Robust Wine Bar's Webster Groves location has long been renowned for its fabulous wine selection, as well as the fine food coming out of the kitchen. Earlier this year, Robust ventured into the city for its second location, Robust Downtown at the MX. While the vibe is a bit different than the original, the menu and wine offerings at the new Robust remain top-notch.
Robust's new space is the epitome of urbane class. The restaurant is on the corner of Washington Avenue and Seventh Street, and a plethora of tall windows makes for an abundance of people-watching. The decor is sleek and understated, and the location attracts a diverse crowd. On our visit, the restaurant was bustling with a variety of folks, from hipsters to business types.
Although the menu has a selection of tempting larger plates like Seared Ribeye ($24) and a Colorado Lamb Shank ($22), Robust has long been associated with smaller plates, and that's where we focused our attention. To start, a couple of cups of soup, the Robust Chowder ($6), and Chef's Daily Soup ($5), a creamy, savory fennel potato creation. The chowder was chock-full of shrimp, chorizo and andouille sausage; and finished with a nice, slow spicy burn.
The Roasted Red Pepper Hummus ($8) was a tasty follow-up to the soups, a sizable, shareable portion of chickpea puree with feta and kalamata olives in addition to the namesake peppers, served with cucumbers and wedges of toasted pita.
Then, on to the Tasting Plates: The Sea Scallops ($14) featured tender jumbo scallops over a caulifower-potato puree, topped with perfectly roasted Brussels sprouts.
The Shrimp & Grits ($14) was especially good, with tons of jumbo shrimp cooked with shallots, garlic, herbs and bits of bacon and corn swimming in buttery Parmesan grits.
Like the original, the new Robust's menu is laid out according to ‘Robust Factor,’ which assigns numbers to different types of wines, from bubbly to sticky dessert wines, and then matches them with the various dishes. We've long been fans of this system, which really makes the menu easy to navigate.
Of course, we couldn't visit Robust without indulging in wine. One of the real strengths of Robust's menu is the wide selection of wine flights, allowing oneophiles and amateurs alike to taste around the wine list with ease. This time, we tried the flight of Take Me To Bed Reds ($17), a trio of hearty wines that included Can Blau, Trentadue ‘Old Patch Red’ and Tenuta Montati ‘Caburnio.’
The restaurant also has a small retail space for wine sales if you need a bottle to go. For those not used to navigating downtown, there are plenty of parking options, from valet to nearby garages and surface lots. Whether you're just popping in for a glass of wine at happy hour or sitting down to a full meal, Robust at the MX has you covered.
-- 635 Washington Ave., 287-6300, robustwinebar.com.
Robust Downtown at the MX Shrimp & Grits with an Herbed Butter Sauce
•1/2 C corn
•1/2 C bacon
•2 T herb butter
•3 C creamy grits
•2/3 C grits
•1 1/3 C cream
•2 C milk
•2/3 c grated Parmesan
•Salt, to taste
•Bring the milk and cream up to a boil.
•Once there, stir in grits and reduce heat to a simmer
•Stir constantly, and slowly cook the grits until thickened and all the liquid is absorbed
•When the meal is soft and thick, stir in the Parmesan
•Taste and adjust seasoning with salt
Herb Butter: Ingredients
•1/4 C shallots, minced
•2 T garlic, minced
•1/2 C white wine
•1 lb. butter, cubed and at room temperature
•2 T parsley, chopped
•2 T thyme, chopped
•1 T rosemary, chopped
Herb Butter: Directions
•Gently sweat the garlic and shallot in a little canola or olive oil until translucent
•Do not brown or caramelize
•Deglaze pan with the white wine and reduce until almost dry
•Take wine mix and chill in the fridge until completely cold
•In a stand mixer (or by hand) whip together wine mix and all the remaining ingredients
•Reserve 2 T of herb butter for the recipe, and the remaining can be packaged and frozen until needed again
•In a hot large nonstick sauté pan, place the seasoned shrimp
•When they’re nicely caramelized on the first side, flip and caramelize other side
•As soon as you flip, add the bacon and toast a bit.
•When it’s all toasted, add the corn and deglaze with water to release fond developed in the pan
•As it’s reducing, add the herb butter
•End with an emulsified butter sauce; if it breaks, try adding a little water
•To plate, divide the grits into four bowls and place four shrimp onto the grits, then spoon the bacon, corn, and herb butter sauce on top of the shrimp