French Toast

Under new ownership, Malmaison still turns out some of St. Louis' best French food

The trout, although not as exotic, was also quite enjoyable, with four half-fillets stacked perpendicularly atop wild rice, with carrots and green beans on the side, and topped in turn with a moderate amount of toasted, thinly sliced almonds.

For this meal, we started with several slices of cured salmon, surrounded like a clock face by either three capers or three cubes of red pepper every two hours, on top of a potato pancake with a horseradish cream and, finally, a tiny dribble of balsamic reduction at the base. Our other appetizer was gnocchi comme ma mère: several tiny pillows of potato dumpling with a gentle smoky flavor accented by the earthy flavor of wild mushrooms and truffled olive.

On the more expensive menu, one alternative to desserts is a cheese plate, and the selection at Malmaison, although not particularly daring, is certainly a good primer on the big names in French cheeses. Our selection (and, of course, we took them all) included Port-Salut, Morbier, Roquefort, Boursin and a chévre, all sliced freshly from rounds or wedges at the table. The famous St. Albans basket -- a cookie latticework containing fruits and ice cream made famous by the Andujars -- is still offered, although we went with other dessert choices, including a dense chocolate-Cabernet tart in an almond crust over raspberry coulis and basic but excellent versions of crème caramel and chocolate mousse.

Over the river and through the woods: Top-notch French cuisine is a short drive away at Malmaison in St. Albans, Mo.
Mark Gilliland
Over the river and through the woods: Top-notch French cuisine is a short drive away at Malmaison in St. Albans, Mo.

Location Info

Map

The Gardens at Malmaison

3519 St. Albans Road
St. Albans, MO 63073

Category: Restaurant > Continental

Region: Franklin County

Details

Three-course prix-fixe menu $30 and $40
Escargots $7
Foie gras aux fruits $17
Gnocchi comme ma mère $7
Joue de veau $19
Filet de boeuf $25
Cote d'agneau $27

636-458-0131; Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

St. Albans Road, St. Albans, Mo.

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As might be expected, the wine list is mainly French with a significant list of Californians, with a special supplement of "sommelier's limited selections" that includes 10 superpremium California reds and six single-vineyard 1999 Williams & Selyem pinots noirs. (For whatever reason, the zooty Italian and French wines are on the main list, including, among others, a '97 Tignanello for $255, an '81 La Mission Haut Brion for $200 and an '83 Latour for $425.) The total list comprises some 70 whites, 95 reds and 10 sparkling, but I would have liked to see a bit larger selection in the $30-and-under range. Although several excellent ports are offered after dinner, there's no Banyuls, which would be ideal with the tremendous chocolate content of the chocolate-Cabernet tart.

Ahh, but back to the whole pronunciation issue. Aside from this, our service was exemplary, and it was apparent that Eddie is paying very close attention to his newest restaurant; he was cruising the dining room throughout both of our visits. And in fairness, I have to admit that my own conversational French is atrocious; I once opened a social gathering of the St. Louis University French honor society by introducing my next-door neighbor as my car. Nonetheless, Malmaison is decorated with accolades from Gourmet magazine, Distinguished Restaurants of North America and others, and I wonder how such outsiders might react nowadays to this, still a shining beacon of French cooking in St. Louis area, when the waiter offers them a nice "bouffe" or "crown of Agnew." If nothing else, Monsieur Neill, call my old pal Paul Azzara at the Alliance Française and have him spend an hour or two with the staff to exorcise the malapropisms from Malmaison.

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