Big Fish

The Pond Inn's evolution is going swimmingly

And the desserts -- well, the good news is that Alvarez told us in a follow-up phone call that the kitchen folks were hard at work at one or more signature desserts to be introduced shortly. All that was available on our visits were the hackneyed cheesecake and "chocolate decadence" style of cake available locally at approximately 239 other restaurants, plus what turned out to be a disappointing zabaglione over some really wonderful, obviously hand-selected fresh raspberries. The zabaglione was prepared somewhere out of sight rather than finished at tableside, and the custard -- which, we learned later, should have been described to us as Grand Marnier-flavored instead of the more common marsala flavor -- had no tangible enhancement at all.

The new Pond Inn has subtitled itself a "maison de vin," and the wine list, though not lengthy (about 40 reds, whites and sparkling wines are offered, plus six dessert wines), is geographically diverse, with representatives from several California districts, Washington, Oregon, Chile, Spain, Australia, New Zealand and virtually everywhere in France. Prices mostly run $25-$45 by the bottle and $6-$9 by the glass.

Service is semiformal, in unjacketed black tie, and quite knowledgeable, with servers dissecting ingredients and sauces to a fine degree when requested. The dining room -- rooms, actually, including one on an upper level -- are perfectly suited to the rural-inn theme, with old wood floors, textured beige-butter walls and sometimes unmatched chairs. In an excellent seasonal touch, the fresh plants in vases on each table were sprigs of holly and pine, but the atmosphere was diminished on our first visit by the piping in of a radio station -- complete with commercials -- for background music. This had been corrected by our return visit, with soft and unintrusive jazz, not from the radio, providing the soundtrack.

The Pond Inn, helmed by Winston Alvarez (pictured) and Roy L. Wurst Jr., offers a menu that ranges from very good to astounding.
Jennifer Silverberg
The Pond Inn, helmed by Winston Alvarez (pictured) and Roy L. Wurst Jr., offers a menu that ranges from very good to astounding.

Details

Kendall Brook smoked salmon $8.95
Pâté de campagne $7.95
Bayou shrimp $8.95
Stuffed quail $24.95
Veal rack chop $27.95
Roasted half-duck $25.95
Grilled salmon $21.95
Fresh raspberries with zabaglione $5.95

636-405-0500. Hours: 5-9 p.m. Wed.-Sun.

17250 Manchester Rd.

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In short, this kinder, gentler Pond Inn is evolving, its staff working diligently to fill in the gaps between the current offerings and a truly remarkable total-meal experience. But it's already a charming, intimate dining experience at a fairly secluded crossroads that, although close to ever-encroaching subdivisions, still provides the impression of a country escape.

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