Lafayette Square has long had an abundance of fine places to eat and imbibe; and lately, the scene there has been even more active, with recently opened eateries that are injecting new blood into the area. One of these new attractions opened earlier this summer: Tripel specializes in German and Belgian food and drink. We'd never tried out Belgian fare, and were eager to check out this new addition.
The designers of Tripel took advantage of the industrial accoutrements of the space like the exposed ductwork and added details like vintage-inspired light fixtures to give the space the look feel of a classy but casual European bistro. While the bar is expansive and the dining room is more than roomy, the vibe here is almost cozy.
The great beer list at Tripel featured a wide variety of European styles that are hard to find on beverage lists around town, and we took advantage of the bounty, indulging in a Bacchus Flemish Red ($8), a subtly sour beer with multiple berry notes; and a light, fruity Gulden Draak 9000 ($8). They proved to be the perfect companions to the bread service, which included bits of Belgian waffles—a really nice touch.
The Tripel menu has plenty of mussels, as one would expect of a Belgian eatery, as well as a bevy of large and small plates. To start, we sampled the Escargots a la Moelle (escargot with marrow) ($11) from the Entrees section, along with the Tomates aux Crevettes (tomato with shrimp) ($10) from the Soupe et Salade list. Rich and decadent only begins to describe the escargot: tender bits of snail under blocks of marrow and served on the bone with some crusty bread for company. The dish was topped with a spray of micro-greens and capers that served to cut through the fat. Although technically a starter, this was heavy enough to be a main event, depending on your appetite. On the other side of the spectrum, the tomato dish was fairly light, though no less delicious. It consisted of a hollowed-out local heirloom tomato filled with shrimp and served with greens, egg and assorted other tomato variations alongside. It was the ideal summer salad, light and flavorful and showcasing some fine local produce.
For our mains, we chose Stroofvles ($14) from the Plats Traditionnels section of the menu, and the Antelope Rumstek ($24) from the Viandes Grillees offerings. The stroofvles is a traditional Belgian stew with chunks of tender beef served over frites. Talk about simple and hearty! This dish would be perfect on a winter's eve with a pint of stout. The antelope steak was a choice cut sourced from Broken Arrow Ranch in Texas. This steak was mild and tender and as far from gamey as it could be. Ours was cooked a beautiful mid-rare and was immensely juicy and flavorful, and served with a red wine sauce. Sorry fans of crispy meats, we're told the fat content in antelope is much lower than beef, making it hard to cook beyond medium without becoming too chewy. No problem here! Along with this superlative steak came some Brussel sprouts and a serving of stoemp, another Belgian favorite consisting of pureed potatoes with leeks and carrots.
All in all, Tripel is a unique and tasty addition to a venerable neighborhood.
--Tripel, 1801 Park Ave., 678-7787, tripelstl.com.