Tapas 'n' Things

Aaron Whalen brings Spanish flair (and delicious food) to the Lou

Whalen's deft treatment of seafood captures the Spanish influence while again creatively combining flavors. Large, seared scallops might be found in a northern coastal area such as Galicia, but topping the scallops with a creamy essence of shellfish, tarragon, asparagus tips and sliced grape tomatoes is a nouveau twist. A generous fillet of thick, firm grouper is grilled and topped with Spanish olives. Chunks of tomato-basil bread stuffing soak up the lemon butter, while flash-fried spinach provides color and crunch. Both of the above are available among the medium plates. Misto ($17), a large-plate special, combines the delicate flavors of shrimp, scallops, lobster, calamari and mussels, simmered in a subtle broth of garlic and white wine.

Other large plates allow Whalen even more elbow room. His take on osso buco ($20) employs a pork shank rather than veal. It was an eye-opener when the dish arrived at the table with one large and one smaller bone standing straight up. Surrounded by a veal demi-glace, the flavorful meat slid off the bone, thanks to a slow, tenderizing braise. Adding a chutney of cubed Fuji apples again brought an autumnal feel. If it's available, order the sweet melon-mango gazpacho for a burst of fresh summer fruit.

Bastante's wine list shows creativity, and is, as restaurant lists go, reasonably priced. There are 47 bottles, with more than half in the $18-$25 range, representing several French, Italian, Californian and Spanish regions and including, thankfully, a rosé (why do so many restaurants forget the summer appeal of a good, dry rosé?). Wines by the glass check in between $5-$7, including a house-made white sangria.

Mediterranean in the Midwest: Bastante head chef Mickey Kitterman, sous-chef Todd Prange and owner Aaron Whalen
Kate Cunningham
Mediterranean in the Midwest: Bastante head chef Mickey Kitterman, sous-chef Todd Prange and owner Aaron Whalen

Location Info

Map

Skeeters Eatery

727 N. 1st St.
St. Louis, MO 63102-2501

Category: Restaurant >

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Trattoria Marcella

3600 Watson Road
St. Louis, MO 63109

Category: Restaurant > Italian

Region: St. Louis - St. Louis Hills

Details

Pancetta-wrapped pitted dates $6
Roasted duck with fried sweet potatoes $10
Olive-crusted grouper $16
Pork osso buco $20

314-783-4000. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

3315 Watson Road

Bastante doesn't make desserts but brings them in from an outside provider. None of them -- white chocolate raspberry cheesecake, Kahlúa cheesecake and macadamia nut chocolate cake, to name just a few -- are remotely Mediterranean, though all were tasty. A selection of lighter sweets would do well to add balance here. The coffee, served at the table in a French press, is a rich blend provided by Kaldi's.

When all was said and done, my friend was sort of right. But Bastante doesn't bill itself as a strictly tapas eatery. In fact, the word isn't even on the menu. There are other notions to rebel against in this world, but a good night out sharing a fine meal with friends isn't one of them.

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