Fuse Company

609 comes close to the ideal balance of substance and style

Mahi-mahi dusted with green tea leaves was one of those dishes that just didn't meld. Nothing wrong with the surprising, thick mound of pineapple fried rice that served as the foundation, or the fermented black bean sauce that kept things moist. But crushed green tea leaves are bitter when eaten in their non-brewed state and using them to coat fresh fish before searing doesn't lessen the bitterness. Put it all together and you have a cacophony of clashing flavors.

Meat and poultry are in abundance at 609, from thick, grilled pork chops with a celery-root purée to aged Angus strip steak with sweet-potato gratin to the aforementioned glazed duck breast to grilled chicken with mushroom ravioli. We settled on one of the night's specials, a lamb trio. A chop cooked medium-rare and drizzled with a rich lavender-wine reduction sauce was beautifully plated and teamed with a small but mighty potpie and a short kebab with an apricot salsa.

Pastry chef Kaplan translates 609's aesthetic to her cleanly plated, stylish sweets. A crème brûlée sampler proved perfect for sharing: five small square ramekins arranged as a cross, each filled with an unusually luscious custard -- Thai basil-lemongrass, toasted sesame, orange-ginger, passion fruit, bittersweet coconut. As wonderful as the sampler was, the apple3 dessert ought to stand as Kaplan's signature dish. A light apple and lavender tart, drizzled with a port-wine apple sauce and served with house-made caramel ice cream chunked up with bits of apple, will never go out of season. The dessert special of the night, a cinnamon chocolate mousse cake with raspberry coulis, was also superb, accented with a piece of chocolate molded into the restaurant's "609" logo inserted on top like a candle, just in case you'd forgotten where you were. A sampling of house-made sorbets -- passion fruit, blood orange and cherry -- proved fresh and sublime. Finally, as if the place weren't duded up with enough stainless steel, the very good French-press coffee is served in cups and saucers made of the metal.

The substance of style: Chefs Tom Balk and Andy 
Huang pursue the perfect balance at 609.
Jennifer Silverberg
The substance of style: Chefs Tom Balk and Andy Huang pursue the perfect balance at 609.

Location Info

Map

609 Lounge & Restaurant

609 Eastgate Ave.
University City, MO 63130

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: Delmar/ The Loop

Silk Road Chinese Restaurant

510 N. Euclid Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108-1604

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

Hunan Star

13239 Manchester Road
Des Peres, MO 63131

Category: Restaurant > Chinese

Region: Des Peres

Details

Steamed Thai mussels $6
Organic salad $5
Green tea-dusted Mahi-Mahi $17
Drunken seafood noodle bowl $17
Crème brûlée sampler $7

314-721-9168. Hours: lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Mon.-Sat.; dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Sun.-Thu., 5-10 p.m. Fri. & Sat.

609 Eastgate Avenue, University City

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The small wine list is categorized along the lines of "red, white, dessert and sake." All are available by the glass and will run you between $6 and $12, with bottles in the $21-to-$46 range, heavy on the cabernets and chardonnays. There's a smattering of zinfandel, pinot noir, syrah, Riesling and fume blanc -- if you call one of each a smattering. Service was uneven; aside from the tuna flub mentioned above, our waitress appeared to be unsure of herself as she explained the dishes and was at a loss as to when to remove plates.

I recently heard Virginia Postrel talk about her new book, The Substance of Style, and it made me think of 609. When is the look and feel of something more valuable than the thing itself? 609 is certainly chock-full of style. Moreover, the restaurant seems to have attracted a clientele that derives pleasure and meaning from style -- as if to say, "I like that and I'm like that." But without substance, a restaurant is destined to fade quickly from the public palate. For now, it seems Yu and crew at 609 have come close to hitting upon that elusive ideal balance.

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