Eastern Exposure

Postmodern interiors and aloof servers can do little but condescend to dishes like pad thai, but an entree of unusual tea-smoked swordfish proved worthy of its mannered environment. Unlike the red-curry mahi, which arrived on a mirthless bed of La Choy-ish vegetables and tasted predominately of salt, this dish was the very picture of refinement: two demure triangles of fish festooned with a swirl of peanutty noodles and julienned vegetables, combining texture and flavor with engaging subtlety. Though it coquettishly resisted the fork, the swordfish's inner self was succulent and receptive to the flirty advances of a tangy, esoteric sauce.

Other dishes for which I could discern only the most general Asian connotations met with varying success. A green salad with pickled-ginger vinaigrette arrived infested with a horde of fried lotus-root chips. I can't say these weren't delicious; a sack of those chips, a cooler of Sapporo tallboys and a couple of Jackie Chan videos could satisfy all my pan-Asian needs for a week, but, together with the savage shards of hot-tempered ginger, they reduced the frail mesclun fronds to a whimper.

The fried "fiery"calamari also occasioned whimpers, but these were mine; I had neglected to take the word "fiery" literally. Biting into a slice of well-camouflaged chile, I broke into a sweat, then broke into a smile; a cool, sweet mango sauce was an inspired accomplice to the impeccably crunchy squid.

Location Info

Map

Shiitake Restaurant and Bar

7927 Forsyth Blvd.
Clayton, MO 63105-3808

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Clayton

Portabella

15 N. Central
Clayton, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Clayton

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With dessert came the piece de resistance of Shiitake's concept-worship: a chocolate-banana "spring roll." A slice of banana was wrapped in chocolate cake, encased in an egg-roll wrapper, then deep-fried and served with vanilla ice cream. I am no fan of cutesy sweets, and this one exemplified everything that is wrong with fusion cooking; too greasy and ponderous for a last course, it merely glorified style over content.

The dessertification of the egg roll was inevitable, but it makes about as much sense as a raspberry hamburger, from which observation I conclude that Shiitake's greatest culinary victories invariably favor gentle emulation over unbridled fantasy.

SHIITAKE RESTAURANT AND BAR, 7927 Forsyth Blvd., 725-4334. Hours: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 5:30-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.; closed Sun. Entrees: $10.95-$16.50.

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