Terrace View restaurant at 8th and Chestnut streets lives up to its setting, and that’s a tall order. The glass-walled structure overlooks Citygarden, an innovative urban oasis of climbable sculptures, fountains and native Missouri plantings.
Just as the garden mirrors our area’s natural geography, its restaurant utilizes Missouri bounty in an innovative menu by Jim Fiala (The Crossing, Liluma, Acero). The seasonal offerings combine Fiala’s Mediterranean style with local greens, cheeses and meats. Much if not all the food used is ‘small-batch’ and organic.
Diners can eat on the huge patio adjoining the garden, or inside, where modernistic chrome tables and chairs are well-spaced for privacy and still provide money views of the setting. The menu has cold and hot appetizers, mini-entrees (about half-entree sized) and a small list of chops/steaks.
From the cold appetizers, we sampled the 50-Mile Salad, a plateful of garden goodies that change with the season. Ours had tender leaves of arugula, corn kernels scraped from the cob and cherry tomatoes tossed with a spicy dressing. At $5, it was well priced. The crudo ($10), cured seafood, was at the opposite end of the price spectrum. A single scallop, sliced into three discs, had been cured in lime and orange juices. It was tender, with the unique flavor of acid curing, and it came with house-made chips that were paper thin and dotted with coarse sea salt flakes, showing how attention to every detail can turn the most prosaic of foods into a gourmet treat.
A roasted beet salad is imported from Fiala’s menu at The Crossing in Clayton. The layers of cubed yellow beets, white goat cheese and red beets are enhanced by toasted pine nuts and a luscious sherry vinaigrette. The $8 salad spotlights just how good fresh root vegetables can be.
Moving on to hot appetizers, a special, smoked trout ($10), yielded an entire side of fish delicately cooked to tender, not the dry, moisture-sapped fish that smoking usually produces. The dish came with hot ‘salad’: sautéed chard and bits of Missouri bacon, all excellent and a good value.
Rillette of duck confit ($8) was a must-order if you like duck. A hefty serving of shredded duck came in a ramekin, not the fat-soaked meat typical of confit. It got the same light-handed treatment as the trout, just faintly flavored with duck fat. It came with salty house-made crostini and a colorful pool of mango-orange coulis echoing the classic duck-orange pairing.
Fritto misto ($8) was a mix of zucchini, shrimp and oyster mushrooms fried in a tempura-like batter and served with truffle aioli. I especially liked the zucchini sticks, which were thick-sliced and retained firmness. An order of fried Great Lakes Perch ($8) was a generous portion of fish fingers made using the same batter, and excellent tasting, with sweet and tender fish. It came with homemade salsa verde and tartar sauce.
From the list of chops and steaks, we started with Lake Superior Walleye Pike, which was as good a piece of fish as I’ve ever had. The delicate white fish was pan-seared to an appetizing brown, and sat on a bed of creamy, loose polenta gratin, with tomato ragu nearby. A must-order dish, even at $12 for the 3-inch piece of fish.
A veal chop from the meat list was the only real disappointment of the evening. At a whopping $36, it was riddled with fat and undercooked. Yes, the meat was excellent, the few bites that were edible, anyway. The dish’s only saving grace was its sides: wonderful frites dusted with coarse sea salt flakes, and fresh green beans that were crisp-cooked and remarkably sweet.
Desserts, often a paltry afterthought, get plenty of attention here. Each is conceived with some distinctive quality. For example, the chocolate torte has olive oil, the panna cotta has honey and the apple puff pastry is dotted with sea salt. We ordered the latter two, each excellent. The panna cotta was dense and milky and drizzled with local honey. The fruit dessert featured local apple cubes cooked in a sugary, cinna mony sauté with a small puff pastry liberally dosed with coarse salt and a dollop of bourbon-laced whipped cream. At $6 each, dessert was a bargain.
Terrace View offers one of the finest evenings St. Louisans can enjoy. The food is exciting and evokes a new respect for heartland farms. And when you add the innovative Citygarden setting to the mix, you get a sensory experience that is simply unmatched.
ROASTED BEET SALAD FROM TERRACE VIEW
4 large gold or red beets (a mix of the two is attractive!)
3 peeled and diced shallots
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1/8 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 cup goat cheese
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1. Wrap beets individually in aluminum foil with a pinch of salt inside and bake for 1 hour at 400° or until beets are hot in the center and fork tender.
2. Sherry Vinaigrette: While the beets are cooking, combine 1 finely diced shallot, 1/8 cup sherry vinegar, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of salt and a crack of fresh-ground black pepper in a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigorously and reserve.
3. Goat Cheese Mixture: Combine the goat cheese, mascarpone cheese, half the toasted pine nuts, half the flat leaf parsley, 1 finely diced shallot, a few pinches of salt and black pepper and a touch of extra virgin olive oil in a stand mixer with the ‘paddle’ attachment. Reserve.
4. When the beets are finished cooking, peel away the foil and let cool until you can handle them, then rub the skin off one beet at a time with a paper towel.
5. Dice the peeled beets into ¼” pieces. In a mixing bowl, combine the diced beets, 1 diced shallot, the rest of the chopped flat leaf parsley, the rest of the pine nuts and a pinch of salt. Dress with the reserved vinaigrette to taste.
6. In a 2 ¾” wide, 2 ¾” high ring mould, add beet mix to fill a third of the way up. Add goat cheese mix on top of the beet mix to fill the next third of the mould and top with beet mix to completely fill mould. Remove the ring mould and top beet salad with salad greens of your choosing (micro greens or baby beet sprouts will work best) dressed in some of the sherry vinaigrette and a pinch of salt.