Smoking Gunn

Annie Gunn's aims to please

For a look at the steaks, we tried the peppermill ribeye, crusted with cracked pepper and with a butter that included shallots and a reduction of Cabernet and served with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes. It was trimmed with nary a hint of sinew or gristle, yet still firm and moist -- as expected, an utterly perfect cut of meat. Even better, though, was Annie Gunn's take on carpaccio, paper-thin rounds of rosy tenderloin lying flat at the periphery of the plate, with a dome of folded-over sheets of the meat mixed with grilled shiitake mushrooms over a small serving of fresh greens in the middle. The meat and mushrooms were drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and the whole plate was dusted with a flurry of shaved grana padano, a close cousin of parmigiana cheese.

A word is also in order with regard to the smoked seafood available as appetizers -- a trout that's on the regular menu and jumbo shrimp that rotates as a special. The difference between freshly smoked trout and that stuff you get in the vacuum-packed case in the grocery store is tangible. The two full fillets that come in the appetizer portion at Annie Gunn's are just a shade or two off pure white, and the texture has neither the oily density and aftertaste nor, conversely, the fall-apart, overly watery consistency and taste of smoked fish that's been refrigerated too long or even frozen. Annie Gunn's trout is served with crustless points of brown bread; a dilled, creamed horseradish sauce; capers; and chopped red onions.

The shrimp are gargantuan (and our waitress noted that those in an entrée are even larger), smoked and also maple-glazed, and served with a "Pennsylvania Dutch" barbecue sauce, so named because of the addition of honey. Despite the different levels of sweetness in the ingredients, the sweet flavor is well balanced by the smokiness in both the preparation and sauce, with a black-bean salsa served on the side to add another foundation flavor and a slight kick.

Annie Gunn's chef Lou Rook III is an artist at flavor composition.
Jennifer Silverberg
Annie Gunn's chef Lou Rook III is an artist at flavor composition.

Location Info


Annie Gunn's

16806 Chesterfield Airport Road
Chesterfield, MO 63005

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Chesterfield


Hours: 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sun. Entrées: 17.95-$29.95.
16806 Chesterfield Airport Rd.

The desserts we sampled weren't fancy -- apple pie and bread pudding -- but the portions were huge and the quality outstanding. The roughly double-sized slice of apple pie had a flaky, granular-sugar crust and came with two scoops of cinnamon ice cream; the bread pudding was like random chunks of a dense cake held together with a caramel-sauce glue.

The wine list numbers in excess of 300 bottles and wanders through all regions and price ranges, including 20 Bordeaux ($450 for a '62 Lafite) and more than 40 California Cabernets. In general, it's not cheap, but that's more from the base prices than from a markup standpoint, given that a 1997 Domaine Drouhin pinot noir, for example, generally retails for $25-$30 and sells at Annie Gunn's for $43.

Perhaps the main drawback of Annie Gunn's is its very popularity, which is exacerbated by an extremely high bozocity quotient among some of its patrons. Judging from some of the behavior we saw, wealth and dignity are demonstrably independent variables. I suppose that the guy who set his cell-phone ringer to the first eight bars of "Für Elise" was trying to illustrate his sophistication, but letting it play the entire tune twice every time it rang proved that his ear for music was about as healthy as Beethoven's was at the end of his life and that he was equally deaf to any semblance of common courtesy. Then there was the poor nicotine addict who, much like a first-grader who can't get to the potty on time, couldn't even make it to the door before lighting up, thus generously sharing his match sulfur and cig smoke with the entire no-smoking section.

This brings us to the good news. Recognizing that some folks aren't entirely comfortable eating a top-of-the-line $100 meal in a raucous Irish pub, Rook and owners Thom and Jane Sehnert are actively working toward an expansion, which they hope to have completed by late 2001. The plans include enclosure of the current patio space, which will be turned into a quieter, no-smoking dining room; construction of a new patio farther out; and the addition of some sort of conference facility. It sounds like quite an investment, but assuming Rook and his staff can maintain the quality even with the increased capacity, it's more of a license to print money and a welcome relief for all those folks who currently wait an hour or more with virtually no qualms.

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