Review: 808 Maison

first impression | Remember the old Franco, with its exposed brick walls and charming setting on the first floor of a Victorian walk-up? Well, 808 Maison has added an even better vibe to this spot, one that’s très Parisienne and totally fitting for a French bistro in the heart of Soulard. Even when the historic area is overrun by celebratory Cards fans after a game, 808 is a cozy (and quiet) haven of gourmet food and drink. The food is rich in the tradition of French cuisine, complete with inviting accompaniments and ever-present sauces.

must try
» french onion gratinee: $7; The veal stock set the tone with its deep, rich flavor. The soup avoided being too sweet, which can be a pitfall with the onions, and came topped with Gruyère de Comté, a French cheese made to strict standards
» boudin noir salad: $10; Bright and fresh with peppery arugula and a mustard vinaigrette, it was easily enough for two. It had well-balanced flavors; grilled red onion and Fuji apples offered sweetness to complement the savory, lightly pickled quail eggs and pistachios.
» burgundy-braised lamb shank: $36; The large, hearty portion of bone-in meat is every meat-lover’s dream. It was perfectly roasted with a slightly browned crust on the outside and soft, tender meat underneath. The shank sat in its rich, dark cooking jus with delicious, tiny gnocchi, beautifully browned on all sides, bits of arugula and mirepoix (celery, carrots and onions)
» marseille seafood stew: $30; The light seafood stew was perfectly creamy and laced with exotic saffron. It was very generously filled with shrimp, clams, mussels, monkfish, sole and more. A side of roasted root vegetables ($5) was delicious.
» apple tarte tatin: $7; Continuing in the strictly French theme, a handful of desserts maximized the cuisine’s reputation for rich sweets. This one had impressive layers of thinly sliced apples drizzled with caramel. My only gripe was the crust, which didn’t retain the flaky character of puff pastry. Here again, it easily would feed two.

wash it down
About 10 boutique cocktails complement the wine list, including many that are French-inspired and built around ingredients like Chambord, Grand Marnier and absinthe. My 808 Sour ($10) was a fluffy treat that balanced whiskey, lemon and a delightful crema of whipped egg white.

I really liked the ‘adultness’ of this place. The ambience had a fin de siècle character; the menu was memorable and included seasonal items. I especially appreciated being served complimentary bread (so rare nowadays) and ample dinner portions with generous accompaniments. We needed a French restaurant in town, and this one is a perfect fit. A note: It adjoins the popular and rollicking Molly’s and is owned by the same team, John Rogers and Luke Reynolds.

808 Geyer Ave. | 314.594.4505

the dish | Loup de Mer: Stuffed with a scallop-fennel mousse and topped with preserved lemon grenobloise sauce, shallots, capers, brioche croutons and micro cilantro