Friday, February 18, 2011

eau bistro

[EDIT 06 March: just wrote a follow-up. please read both.]

it pains us to have to write this review. the first time we ate at eau bistro, we had a wonderful meal. it didn't hurt that our first visit was for a valentine's day celebration, so we were in good spirits already, but the food truly was delicious. the first time. our second visit? not so much.

eau bistro | chase park plaza
central west end

most st. louisans are at least familiar with the exterior beauty of the chase park plaza.  impressively, the interior rivals the breathtaking facade.  chase park is to opulent as kristen stewart is to vapid.  chase park is perhaps the most ornate of all buildings in the area, and eau bistro, nestled in the spacious chase park confines, fits the regal profile perfectly.  plush, roomy booths; vaulted ceilings; dimmed, romantic lighting; eau bistro is tailored specifically for an intimate rendezvous.  of course, we dined with two of our friends on this night, and we don't "swing" that way, but we still felt seduced by the lush interior. 

our server was quite good, really, and all at our table were impressed with her warmth.  she was also quick to inquire about all of our questions (and there were many) about veg-friendly fare.  she made us feel quite assured that our meal would be completely meat-free.  in this matter, she was not wrong.  a bonus: she brought us a bread basket without us having to ask!

so, yeah, let's start with the bread basket.  the first time we ate at eau bistro, we were absolutely floored by the quality of their bread offerings.  from the well-balanced (a little crisp on the outside, warm and soft on the inside, just enough salt) pretzels to the deliciously savory "biscuits" to the salty rolls, we couldn't get enough.  seriously.  we asked for a second basket, gluttons we be.  the bread was so good, in fact, that clark proclaimed on urbanspoon that it was the best bread basket in the city.  after our most recent trip, though, clark has issued a retraction.  the basket consisted of the same offering, only this time everything was "perfectly ordinary," tilting dangerously close to "thoroughly disappointing."  crumbly-dry biscuits, overcooked pretzels, and poorly seasoned rolls cast an inauspicious cloud over our meal.  (note: we know it's a bit much to go on so long about bread, but at a restaurant of this "quality," everything must go under the microscope.  the fact that a place like vito's can so utterly outshine eau bistro speaks volumes about both places, by the way.)

eau bistro is sporting a new menu and philosophy compared to our last visit, and not surprisingly the menu is designed primarily for omnivores with locavore tendencies.  there are a couple of salads without meat, a couple of veg entrees, and a slew of veggie "sides" that intrigued us; all of these offerings confirmed that eau bistro--at least on paper--is one of the more vegetarian-inclusive fine dining restaurants in the area.  unfortunately, we were wholly unimpressed by the quality of the food and utterly disgusted by the lack of value.  for real, we were pissed!  let's discuss.

after the bread basket, we moved on to three of the yummy-sounding sides, all of which our server made sure were meat-free.  there was cauliflower puree, roasted brussels sprouts, and tillamook chedder potato croquettes.  they all sound great, right?!  full disclosure: they were all quite good.  the problem was the serving size.  as you can see, there's little more than a dollop of puree, only two croquettes, and about five sprouts.  and, people, each "side" was five bucks!  of course, we knew the meal would be expensive, even with our discount, but this was highway freaking robbery.  still, we didn't freak out because we had our entrees to look forward to.

we received two dishes: sous vide eggplant and wild mushroom risotto.  both arrived in insanely hot dishes, but we were shocked by how tepid the actual food was.  looking past the temperature, we were struck by how boring everything looked.  there were a few grape tomatoes in the sous vide, a taste of greens, and maybe five full noodles. the pine nuts--already very light in flavor profile--didn't add anything to the dish, and the pecorino lacked the punch necessary to excite.  adding insult to injury, there were only two slivers of eggplant sitting beneath the scant melange.  yes, the noodles are locally made and the vegetables are locally sourced, and we love eau bistro for doing that, but we're still not sure what we paid 20 bucks for.

the second entree was hardly better.  overcooked risotto, weak gorgonzola dolce cream, a tiny mound of spinach and a few slivers of mushrooms were not nearly enough to justify the 20 dollar price tag.  sure, we're happy to see the word "vegetarian" on a menu, but these offerings felt like a token gesture that we've seen all too often--you know, "here, eat this, it doesn't have meat."  where. were. the. vegetables???  for comparison's sake, take a look at terrene's veggie meatloaf: same price; quadruple the veggies.

eau bistro's new kitchen has taken care of vegetarian business on paper, and we applaud them for that, but the execution is sorely lacking.  on special occasions, we're perfectly willing to pay a bit more, but there must be justification for such bloated price tags.  otherwise, the customer feels duped, bamboozled, cheated. or worse: bloody mad.


vegetarian-friendly score:
Eau Bistro on Urbanspoon

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