Taste : 4584 Laclede St. : 361-1200

The recent debut of the new Taste in the CWE was much anticipated by area foodies and cocktail fans alike, and we can report that it doesn’t disappoint! Chef Adam Altnether and mixologist extraordinaire Ted Kilgore have come up with kitchen and cocktail menus that put the restaurant at the top of the St. Louis culinary scene.

    Taste is a classy, 21st century take on a speakeasy: a balance of modern and vintage that is comfortable and familiar. We liked the classic touches, especially the wood plank ceiling and the pull-chain commodes. Take note, though, that most of the light at Taste is provided by candle-power. It’s soft and romantic to be sure, but you may find yourself squinting to read your bill.

    The cocktail menu is greatly expanded from the original Taste, and includes more than 30 cocktails, conveniently listed based on their flavor profiles. We tried the Barrel-Aged Unusual Negroni ($10) and the Food For Thought ($10). The Negroni is made with Aperol, instead of the usual Campari, and so is a bit less bitter on the finish. Kilgore’s technique of barrel-aging a batch of cocktails really helps merge the flavors of the spirits in this drink. The Food For Thought combines aquavit and gin in a really nice, aromatic libation.   

    The food menu is broken down into snacks, appetizers, entrees, sides and desserts. We started with Assorted Pickles ($4), Bacon Deviled Eggs ($4) and Candied Bacon ($5) from snacks, and Pig Fries ($7) and Chicken Meatballs ($8) from the appetizers selection. We also opted for the Roasted Carrot Bruschetta ($10), which was the evening’s special.

    It’s hard to know where to begin, since all of the food was really superb. The pickles, which included beets, cauliflower, onions and cucumbers, struck a perfect balance between sweet and savory, and the bacon did the same with sweet and salt. The pig fries are actually rolls of fried head cheese. Do yourself a favor—forget every horror story you’ve ever heard about head cheese and give these mild, flavorful fries a try. They’re sublime. We wish the bruschetta was a regular menu item! The carrots were perfectly roasted, with just a touch of sweetness and a texture that reminded us of sweet potatoes. We really liked the fact that the portions are fairly small; it’s easy to roam across the menu and sample a little bit of everything.

    We chose the Fish and Chips ($16) next. This is miles away from the heavily- battered version we’re used to seeing on these shores and has much more in common with the traditional version popular in the U.K. The fish used is trout, lightly seared, with no flour coating to cover up the delicate, flaky goodness. We had the choice of fries or chips, and decided on the chips.  They were uniformly fried and delicious—not a rubbery, undercooked one among them! We finished with an order of Pigwiches from the dessert section ($5). These are fan favorites from the original Taste menu. Picture two chocolate pig-shaped cookies, with bacon ganache in the middle—simple and delicious!

    The expert bar and wait staff took excellent care of us as well, and had ready answers to all of our culinary queries!

    No matter whether you want a fine meal, a superb cocktail, or both, Taste is the place to go. Period.  LN