blood and sand is one of the newest and most innovative restaurants to open in st. louis this season. what you find here is totally fresh, from the concept to the menu. co-owners adam frager and tj vytlacil (whose cocktail handiwork you may have enjoyed at demun oyster bar) established their restaurant as a members-only endeavor in order to offer their customers a more customized, personal experience, and under their care and focus, blood and sand has been enjoying a lot of positive coverage. basically, blood and sand offers bespoke dining, and we love being catered to.
blood and sand
as is appropriate for a members-only spot, there's nothing outside to identify blood and sand by, unless you recognize their logo on the windows. once you're swung in through the revolving door, you're greeted by a sleek but comfortable interior. it's not gilded and draped in fur and tapestries, nor is it a shadowy, candlelit hideout. it's very unpretentious: cozy but modern, open yet somehow intimate. the exposed kitchen emits a warm glow and fills the space with the positive buzz of anticipation. in contrast, the light by the bar seems almost a shroud, the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a cocktail after a long day.
everyone we’ve interacted with has been very warm and helpful but never heavy-handed with recommendations. adam is very cordial and easy to talk to. he’s knowledgeable without making you feel like he’s talking down to you, but telling a story. that’s sort of the spirit of the place, after all: the cocktail “blood and sand” has a great story behind it, both in the origination of the drink, and how tj and adam were so inspired by it they built a restaurant around it.
at the risk of sounding hyperbolic and inspiring some skepticism in our readers, we would like to confidently declare that this was the best meal we’ve had in st. louis to date. oh, and if you haven’t applied for a membership yet, you should.
we started off with an order of the truffled tater tots and the hush puppies (the fryer is vegetarian, at least for now). the tots are not what you remember from your school cafeteria days--delicious and addictive as those were--they’re actually better. with a mash-like consistency on the inside that’s so smooth it's almost creamy, and a delicate shell on the outside, they’re an elevated tribute to a classic kids’ favorite. and the truffle oil doesn't overwhelm, as often is the case with anything truffled. hush puppies are another really nostalgic treat for lois and clark, and chef chris bork’s are made with noticeable care. pickled red onions add a welcome hint of tart pungency to the mild sweetness of the pups. they strike the perfect balance of crunch with cake-like softness, sprinkled with just enough salt to get your tongue tingling. and it’s a good thing they’re so awesome on their own, because vegetarians should stay away from the chicken stock-based mole sauce.
on special this night was the spanish omelet, generously drizzled with a vibrant red pepper sauce. we love the comfort-foodiness of the spanish omelet, and we love even more that they left the potato skins on to add a little rusticity.
next we shared the pecan agnolotti. the pasta was hearty, delicate, more delicious than any we’ve had since we can remember: they were smooth with a subtle sweetness from the squash, and tender but with a satisfying thickness. the broccoli puree, pecan and goat cheese toppings were the perfect complement to add some decadence while retaining the “clean” feeling of the whole dish.
as a surprise addition to our table this evening, we also enjoyed a verbena chickpea dish that defies explanation. it can’t be found on the menu because of the limited availability of the hand-shucked, fresh chickpeas, but keep your eyes peeled, because you seriously don’t want to miss out on this when they can make it happen again. it was, quite simply, one of the best dishes we've ever had.