Tani Sushie Bistro

The Miso Soup at Tani is unbelievably good.

The Miso Soup at Tani is unbelievably good.

We ate dinner at Tani Sushie Bistro in Clayton, Missouri on Monday evening. My friend and partner Joe Dang is a manager and Sushie Chef there, so any rating I give will certainly be biased. I will just say that if you have not visited this establishment yet, drop what you’re doing and head on out.

From right to left: Snow Crab, Eel, Shrimp, Salmon and White Tuna. The Tuna was the star of the show. It was melt-in-your-mouth smooth.

From right to left: Snow Crab, Octopus, Shrimp, Salmon and White Tuna. The Tuna was the star of the show. It was melt-in-your-mouth smooth.

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Pho Grand Vietnamese in St. Louis

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Growing up in Midwestern Illinois, my family’s idea of Asian food was La Choy out of a can with Uncle Ben’s rice. As a teen, my tastes adapted to Chinese takeout and food court cuisine. Even after I began dating my eventual wife, a native of the Philippines, I still did not know real Asian cuisine.

Shortly after settling in St. Louis, we began frequenting the local restaurants. I can’t remember the first time we ate at Pho Grand, but I remember my life changing for the better with my first experience of Vietnamese cuisine.

We recently dined at the south St. Louis landmark for the fourth time. The food, service and ambiance are as mind-blowingly good now as they were on our first visit.

Pho Grand has a very extensive menu

Pho Grand has a very extensive menu

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Fried Tofu with Peanut Dipping Sauce

Fried Tofu with Peanut Dipping Sauce

These Crispy Chicken Wings were sticky, pungent and delicious with the flavors of fish sauce and garlic.

These Crispy Chicken Wings were sticky, pungent and delicious with the flavors of fish sauce and garlic.

Lettuce Wraps with tender pork

Lettuce Wraps with tender pork

The Cari Hao, or Scallops with Curry and Coconut Milk

The Cari Hao, or Scallops with Curry and Coconut Milk

Com Tam Bi Suon Cha, or Crushed Rice with Pork Chop and Eggcake

Com Tam Bi Suon Cha, or Crushed Rice with Pork Chop and Eggcake

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I cannot wait for my next visit to Pho Grand Vietnamese Restaurant

Pho Grand is located at 3195 South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis. They are open Sunday and Monday from 11:00 to 9:30; closed on Tuesday; open Wednesday and Thursday 11:00 to 9:30; and open Friday and Saturday 11:00 to 10:30.

http://www.phogrand.com/

Gelateria Del Leone in St. Louis

Sorry the picture is not more clear. Someone please buy me a good camera!

Sorry the picture is not more clear. Someone please buy me a good camera!

We paid our fourth visit to this awesome house of gelato on Sunday evening. After a pungent, spicy dinner next door at Pho Grand, some cooling gelato was exactly what we needed. We tried the Mocha, Soy Chocolate and Salted Caramel. It was the second time we have had the salted caramel. It’s just that good. 

The interior of the shop on South Grand in south St. Louis city.

                              The interior of the shop on South Grand in south St. Louis city.

Just some of the delicious offerings.

                                                                     Just some of the delicious offerings.

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The Soy Chocolate Gelato

                                                                The Soy Chocolate Gelato

Goodbye Sweet Gelato! We will see you again soon!

                                                Goodbye Sweet Gelato! We will see you again soon!

Sugarfire Smokehouse in St. Louis

 

The location in St. Charles, MO

                                                           The location in St. Charles, MO

Sugarfire Smokehouse has been getting a lot of attention lately. I would venture to say it is the talk of the town among foodies in the St. Louis area the past several months. After salivating over all the talk for far too long, we finally visited the St. Charles location on Monday evening. All of the hype was spot on. 

There are also locations in Olivette and O’Fallon, Missouri. Sugarfire won “Best New Restaurant” in 2013 in the St. Louis-based Riverfront Times magazine. They were also noticed by RFT as having one of the best five burgers in St. Louis. After trying one, I concur. 

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The interior of the St. Charles location is pretty cool. Kind of a cross between a diner, a cafeteria and a roadside BBQ, which is exactly what it is. All food is ordered cafeteria style and the tables are mostly communal, so you can see how much others are enjoying their meal as well. 

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The extensive menu sports the traditional BBQ offerings, i.e; brisket, ribs, pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad, slaw, fries and a plethora of house-made sauces. But Sugarfire offers so much more. 

Pork belly Hushpuppies with jalapeno jelly. Yes, pork belly. They were delicious, but could have used more pork in them. My friend Charlie had the “Big Muddy”: Brisket “debris”, smoked sausage, horseradish sauce, BBQ sauce, lettuce and pickles. He said it was amazing. I had a single burger with pimento cheese and housemade bacon. Unreal! 

We also tried the pork ribs, the pulled pork and the house fries. All were great. Among the offered sauces, I thought the Peachy was too sweet and I did not care for the horseradish-based white sauce, but the “Dragon’s Breath” was quite good and so was the “Coffee Sauce”. 

Other offerings at Sugarfire include salads, other sandwiches, salmon and housemade desserts. I cannot wait to get back and try some more. 

The staff at Sugarfire in St. Charles was very friendly and helpful to first time diners.

      The staff at Sugarfire in St. Charles was very friendly and helpful to first time diners.

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Half-rack Pork Ribs with House Fries and Baked Beans.

                                 Half-rack of Pork Ribs with House Fries and Baked Beans.

Pulled Pork with Potato Salad and Green Bean Casserole.

                                   Pulled Pork with Potato Salad and Green Bean Casserole.

The amazing Sugarfire Burger with Pimento Cheese and Housemade Bacon.

              The amazing Sugarfire Burger with Pimento Cheese and Housemade Bacon.

Notice that the meals are served on half-sheet pans. I thought that was pretty cool. Very rustic. I highly recommend a visit to Sugarfire Smokehouse. This was one of the best meals I have had this year. 

 

 

 

La Bonne Bouchee Bakery & Patisserie in Creve Coeur, MO

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I paid my first visit to La Bonne Bouchee in Creve Coeur, MO on Friday evening. Despite driving by the establishment several times over the years and using their products often in my professional life, I have never been to the retail outlet. I did not even realize that the business included a cafe. I just purchased some pastries from the bakery side on this visit. Perhaps I can visit the cafe at a later time. 

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As a big fan of macaroons, I was delighted to see quite a plethora of the little beauties in the display case. I ordered half a dozen, salted caramel, peanut butter and Nutella among them. I was a little disappointed though when I learned after ordering that they were purchased from New York. Combined with the fact that they were sold for over a dollar each, were barely a bite and were on the dry side despite being flavor-able, they were a letdown.

I also ordered some mini cinnamon rolls, which my son devoured before I could taste them. He liked them well enough obviously. 

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I definitely need to get back soon and try some of the gorgeous cakes, pies, tarts and eclairs La Bonne sells. I just need to make sure they are prepared in house before I decide what I want. 

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Hendel’s Market Cafe’ in Florissant, MO

 

The front of Hendel's Market Cafe'.

The front of Hendel’s Market Cafe’.

 

The spread at Hendel's.

                 The spread at Hendel’s.

Hendel’s Market Cafe’ in Old Town Florissant, Mo started as a grocery and general store way, way back in 1873. The Hendel family bought the store in 1915 and continued to operate the location as a specialty grocery and butcher shop for the next 78 years. 

In November, 1994, Ed Bennett bought the building and transformed it into a restaurant. In February, 2009, 700 square feet of space was added to expand the restaurant. Hendel’s has been considered one of the premier dining destinations in North St. Louis County for many years.

My wife and I paid our third overall visit to the restaurant last Friday. We have previously gone for diner and lunch once each. Each visit has been memorable. This time we were celebrating the birthday of a friend and colleague with two additional friends. 

On previous visits, we have enjoyed the Salmon BLT, Spinach and Artichoke Dip and Raspberry Pork, among other dishes. This last visit, we tasted the Pulled Pork Pizza and Crab Stuffed Mushrooms as appetizers, and shared the Wedge Salad and BBQ Tacos. We followed up this abundant lunch with two desserts from Pastry Chef Lia; an intense Lemon Tart and Apple Bread Pudding. Both were amazing.

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                  The Pulled Pork Pizza

The Pulled Pork Pizza featured a flatbread topped with the pork, mozzarella cheese, chipotle aioli, caramelized onions and red peppers. The Mushrooms included herb cheese and garlic cream. They were very garlicky, but definitely in a pleasant way. Both dishes were great.

Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

        Crab-Stuffed Mushrooms

The Wedge Salad

                  The Wedge Salad

The Wedge Salad was actually hearts of Romaine lettuce topped with buttermilk ranch dressing, Bleu cheese, bacon, tomatoes, eggs and chives. The BBQ Tacos included the same pulled pork, which was very tender and favorable, BBQ sauce and slaw, and served on flour tortillas. My only criticism is that I think the tacos would be even better served on corn tortillas. Well-seasoned, crispy wedge potatoes were served on the side.

BBQ Tacos

                         BBQ Tacos

Service was attentive and crisp. Water, tea and Cokes were replenished before having to be requested. I was tempted to order one of the few wines offered by the glass, but opted for a caffeinated beverage. With all the food I consumed, even a little wine may have sent me back home for a nap, and we had a ballgame to get to.

I mentioned Chef Lia earlier because she has made it to the final round of TLC’s Next Great Baker, which airs on Tuesday evening. I admit I would not be aware of the show or the chef if it were not for that banner hanging over the restaurant’s porch out front. The restaurant is hosting a block party on Tuesday evening to celebrate Lia’s success. She will be present and signing autographs. 

Bread Pudding and Lemon Meringue Tart

Bread Pudding and Lemon Meringue Tart

Heldel’s Market Cafe in located at 599 St. Denis St. in Florissant, MO. They are open for brunch on Sunday from 9-2, closed on Monday, and open for lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday from 11-9. 

The Precinct Sports Bar & Grill in St. Louis, MO

The Cuban Sandwich at The Precinct

The Cuban Sandwich at The Precinct

 

Former Major League Baseball star Jim Edmonds’ eatery, 15, was the latest restaurant in St. Louis to transform from a fine dining establishment into a more casual, family-friendly dining establishment. With a focus on sports, brews and barbecue, The Precinct is geared to attract the pregame crowd looking for a quick, affordable lunch or dinner before attending a Cardinals’ baseball game.

We actually went to the restaurant after the lunch rush, just prior to first pitch on Memorial Day. There were only about 10 other people in the building, including staff, and it was very quiet. The service was very relaxed, perhaps a bit too much. It was as if our server extended herself during the pregame rush and had mentally clocked out for the day. When I inquired what other drinks were on offer other that the Pepsi we had ordered for our sons, she began rattling off; Diet Pepsi, Sierra Mist,… Not much of an up-selling job, me thinks.

The food was decent, but not necessarily memorable. The menu is filled with typical bar food; burgers, wings, nachos, other fried foods and appetizers, but the focus is on the barbecue. I ordered the Cuban sandwich, which was made with the slow-smoked, pulled pork. The sandwich was good overall, but I did not like the fact that it included Pesto. Italian Pesto on a Cuban? What? The Pulled Pork Sandwich was good, as were the French Fries. The Baked Beans were rather plain.

Overall, I left with mixed feelings about The Precinct. I enjoyed the ambiance with all of the baseball-related memorabilia on the walls, especially that commemorating Mr. Edmonds’ years with the Cardinals. I was certainly not overly impressed with the food or service. I would recommend to someone curious about the new place; “Go check out the goods, have a beer, and maybe a sandwich or appetizer, then hop on the shuttle down to Busch Stadium and enjoy a ballgame.

Dewey’s Pizza in Kirkwood, Missouri

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The Don Corleone Pizza at Dewey’s

We finally visited a Dewey’s Pizza last Friday. We were in the Kirkwood area so went to the location there. It has been open since 2004. We enjoyed the Don Corleone, their seasonal pizza, as well as a Sausage Calzone and two salads; Marissa had the Caesar Salad and I had the seasonal Harvest Salad.

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The Seasonal Harvest Salad at Dewey’s

The Don Corleone is topped with Pepperoni, Salami, Capacola Ham and Oregano. It is meaty, salty and guiltily delicious. The Harvest Salad is even better. Field greens with Figs, Applewood Bacon, roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Boursin Cheese and Apple Cider Vinaigrette. Amazing!

Andrew Dewitt opened Dewey’s in Cincinnati in 1998. There are now 17 locations throughout Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri. The menu features specialty pizzas, build-your-own pizzas, calzones and salads. The bar features beer and wine, with a focus on locally-produced brews. Check one out!

Mai Lee Restaurant in St. Louis

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Mai Lee Vietnamese Restaurant in Brentwood, Missouri

We ate at Mai Lee again last night. Over five visits to this wonderful Vietnamese restaurant in Brentwood, Missouri. I posted a review on Hubpages. I had Curried Eel with steamed rice. Good flavor, but the eel is hard to eat. Bones. Hard to chew. Marissa had Beef Meatball Soup, or Pho Bo Vien. It was delicious. The boys ate pork-fried rice, eggrolls and we all split a steamed pork bun. Marissa and I also drank wonderful Vietnamese coffees, made with extremely strong coffee and condensed milk.

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The Spread at Mai Lee

The service was good, but the young man forgot the boys’ Pepsi. But he put it on the bill. We had him take it off. No problem. Everything else was good. Wonderful spot for a Saturday night gathering of family and friends.

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Pho Bo Vien, or Beef Meatball Soup

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Curried Eel Stir-Fry. Sloshed Around a Bit.