central west end
terrene is separated neatly into three sections: the extraordinarily secluded and comfortable patio, the main dining room, and the bar. the decor inside is fully modern, and says all it needs to about fine dining without being pretentious. when we visit terrene, we almost always stay in the bar area, as that's the only place to capitalize on the happy hour menu, which is something all st. louis noshers should try (more on this later). the menus are interesting, too, in that they're supported by rustic wooden boards and offer only twenty or so options, and there are brief explanations of terrene's philosophy. the latter is a nice touch and gives patrons an idea of the care the kitchen takes when preparing these gorgeous dishes.
although our favorite bartender in the city left terrene a few months ago, we still get great service every time we visit. and by "great" we mean "the very best." there's no way to count the numerous times a server has gone out of his or her way to make sure our vegetarian needs are met, and there's never a time where we've been neglected in any way. we don't mean to overstate things or be melodramatic, but it makes the experience so much more enjoyable when you know you'll be taken care of, doesn't it?
terrene specializes in serving local ingredients, and their ever-changing menu reflects the produce of the season. for those who haven't been there yet, every season is worth a trip to terrene, but make sure you visit at least once when they're serving tofu tacos. they are, without question, the best tacos we've ever tasted, and that includes street vendors in mexico, san diego, and austin. when we first had the tofu tacos (after a change in the guard for terrene's head chef), it was like we were reborn. reborn in the church of pepitas and salsa verde. just devastatingly good. in any case, since it's winter, there are no tofu tacos on the menu, but there is a new addition to the appetizer section that is worthy of note: mushroom flatbread. one of the standard apps at terrene is the veggie sausage flatbread, and it is truly scrumptious, but it was nice to have a change of pace with the mushroom flatbread. it is served with local mushrooms, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and fennel pollen. all of the ingredients were fresh, bold, and interesting, and the flatbread itself was insanely good. it was a lovely combination of flaky outside and soft inside, and there was a wonderful flavor of buttery olive oil. delicious.
we also obliged ourselves to the (heaping mound) of frites, as we always do. there is simply no way for us to visit terrene without ordering the frites. no way. they are, in a word, perfect. since they're frites, they're of course double-fried, which translates into perfectly cooked potatoes. but it doesn't stop there: with a perfect sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper and a duo of dips (horseradish ketchup and white cheddar ale sauce), these frites become other-worldly. have we mentioned that they're perfect? there are few things we find ourselves craving throughout the week (the western addition at pi, pistachio gelato, arizona gunslinger's organic hot sauce), but these frites are almost always at the top of that list. and, dear lords, just look at that serving!
on this evening, we concluded with the vegetarian meatloaf entree. we hardly ever order the entree at terrene (primarily because of price), but tonight we felt like doing something different. the loaf came on a bed of brussels sprouts and butternut squash, and it was topped with a vegetarian mushroom gravy. though clark wanted more of the gravy because it was so friggin good, the meatloaf didn't really need anymore sauce. the veggie meatloaves we've had in the past have erred on the side of too-dry, but this meatloaf was just right. there was a beautiful caramelized crust surrounding an exceptionally moist. (this is the one and only time we'll use this cringe-inducing word; it's simply the only one that fits in this instance.) the balance of sweet and savory was spot on. we quite literally moaned through the entire dish. lois paused once to utter this summation: "this is 'last meal' good." nuff said.
no need for much summary here: just get thee to terrene, posthaste.