Saturday, April 16, 2011

cafe eau

we want to be clear about one thing: we WANT to write positive reviews for all local restaurants. we don't enjoy doling out criticism and negative feedback. unfortunately, encountering praise-worthy grub is only part of the foodblogger's job. so, as much as it pains us to write two lukewarm reviews in a row, write them we must. hopefully, as has been the case with a couple of st. louis restaurants, our review will get them to rethink their vegetarian offerings. if nothing else, though, we're giving you all a little something to consider before making your way to one of these bland establishments. to be clear, though, cafe eau wasn't a horrible experience at all; we just wanted/needed more.

cafe eau | chase park plaza
central west end

situated across the lobby in chase park plaza, cafe eau serves as the more informal counterpoint to eau bistro.  the vibe in the cafe is certainly more modern than the bistro, and the clientele, too, seems to be a bit more "hip." (note: we are infinitely not "hip.")  the few times we've passed through the cafe, we've noticed that most of the cwe urbanites perch or stand at the bar; for our meal, we opted for a seat at a table, far away from the cwe urbanites.

service was brusque and inattentive, from hostess to server to bartender.  (at one point, another server, possibly noticing our dissatisfaction, stopped by to see if we needed anything, and she was a delight to speak with.)  in a nutshell: we were brought glasses of water at the beginning of the meal, and none of us got a refill until clark walked up to the bar to get one.  as we've mentioned before, we actually prefer a slightly more hands-off approach from our servers, but let's just say we wanted a bit more attention from cafe eau. 

we were encouraged with cafe eau's first offering: the cranberry spinach salad.  cranberries and walnuts are always good companions, and the spinach was plump and properly dressed with a refreshing cranberry champagne vinaigrette.  the slivers of granny smith apples provided a crunchy and tart one-two punch, and the goat cheese (as usual) brought everything together, keeping the tartness of the salad from overwhelming us.  it was a lovely salad, no doubt, but at a whopping 9 bucks, we're not sure it's worth it.

considering that hummus rules our world, sampling cafe eau's version was the main reason clark purchased a to this cwe hotspot.  as hummus goes, this one was oddly sour but competent, and we enjoyed the roasted red peppers and kalamata olives.  what we didn't understand was the olive oil and feta combination.  it may be that the feta mellowed out too much from the oil bath, but primarily we were just unimpressed by the quality of the olive oil.  and the pita, though grilled, needed some kind of seasoning to make it worth the calories.  again, overall the hummus is competent if underwhelming.

because of the paucity of vegetarian offerings at cafe eau, we had few options for our concluding dish, so we went with the tuscany flatbread.  if, as they say, a picture speaks a thousand words, we would've been in hog heaven with this flatbread.  in this case, though, we'll go with something else they say: don't judge a book by its cover.  as you can see, the flatbread is gorgeous to look at, what with the bright red peppers and the abundance of feta and goat cheese.  unfortunately, on the palate, this flatbread is only ordinary.  suffice to say that the various ingredients lacked any distinctive character, and the crust, despite its good-looking char, had very little flavor.  the most glaring flaw, though, was the sauce.  it may be homemade (we don't know because we didn't get a chance to ask), but it tasted like tomato paste from a can, with seemingly no trace of the basil pesto it claims as a base.  to be sure, by no means we were disgusted by the flatbread; in fact, it's thoroughly edible.  it just needs a facesaucelift if we're to consider ordering it again.


now for a couple of notes about the menu.  cafe eau does offer a black bean chili, which we were very excited about, but they add meat to it.  why?  why not use that option to appeal to a crowd that might be interested in healthier eating?  they also offer one other vegetarian option in the "sandwiches & more" section, but it feebly combines the two things most often found at restaurants that haven't thought much about vegetarian cuisine: portobellos and wraps (aka, the double whammy).  cafe eau's vegetarian menu is typical of most mainstream restaurants in a city: uninventive and uninspired.  yes, the food is decent, but in a city like st. louis where extraordinary vegetarian food can easily be found, cafe eau has a long way to go if they're to lure us back.  that said, we understand some restaurants/chefs/kitchens just aren't meant for vegetarians.  that's cool with us.  but, if you're in the cwe and looking for some quality veg fare, head across the lobby to the bistro, where you're sure to find something of interest.


vegetarian-friendly score:

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