first impression | What a great new place. Elmwood offers an elegant evening out, whether you’re getting a burger or a steak. The service is impeccable and best of all, the food is exciting. Black walls, floor-to-ceiling windows and chefs visible in the glassed-enclosed kitchen create an exciting vibe. Everything about it has a dignified feel, in no small part because the servers understand the menu and deliver with professionalism. The dishes, mostly small plates, are inventive. Four or five shared between two diners, along with dessert, will satisfy most appetites.
» citrus salad: $11; If this is offered, don’t pass it up. Endive leaves are meticulously filled with chunks of blood orange, grapefruit, peanuts and cilantro and tossed with a sweet and tangy fish sauce. The flavors sparkle in your mouth, with bursts of citrus dominating the spicy dressing.
» bangs island mussels: $16; This was the best dish on the menu— so meaty and plump, these specimens put to shame all other mussels. There was no broth, but the steaming liquid imparted hints of fennel and cilantro, which trickled into the generous bed of house-made shoestring potatoes at the bottom of the bowl.
» burger: $15; I noticed many diners ordering this, and once I tasted mine, I knew why. The mix of short rib meat and chuck was hearty and delicious. It was enhanced by Korean barbecue sauce (not too hot), fried shallots, American cheese (the best for burgers!) and thick-slab bacon.
» hot fried chicken liver: $14; While great in concept, you better love Tabasco sauce. The hearty plateful of buttermilk-battered meat was correctly cooked to preserve its delicate flavor, and an accompanying house-made ranch dip (heavy on the dill) was served to cut the spicy sting. Some bits of mild pickled veggies also helped.
» gnochetti sardi: $14; Served al dente, which in this case meant barely cooked, the little ear-shaped noodles were crunchy and chewy at the same time. They were tossed with a marvelous blend of soft eggplant, olive oil, tomatoes and melted mozzarella. The spice came from za’atar, a Middle Eastern mix.
» coconut cream rice pudding: $10; Desserts here are special. This amazing choice was the perfect ending to our meal. The bowl of chunky, white rice was flooded with creamy coconut milk, bits of orange and coconut, candied sesame seeds and orange-ginger coulis.
wash it down
The bar menu is just as carefully curated as the food, with gins and rums dominating the liquors. The Cynar ($10) was a delectable swirl of apricot and grapefruit with house falernum, a sweet Caribbean rum liqueur infused with ginger, lime, almond and allspice.
This is the new ‘it’ place. You can stop in for anything from oysters and Campari to sweet potato baba ganoush and a fat ribeye. The atmosphere is relaxed and sophisticated at the same time. Bravo to Maplewood’s newest hot spot!
2704 Sutton Blvd. | 314.261.4708
the dish | Grilled pork steak with leek salad, salsas and butter lettuce cups