Man Overboard

Don't be thrown by the strip-mall setting -- Wholly Mackerel is seafood heaven

If you've been careful not to fill up too much on the warm loaves of bread, you might have room for dessert. Hank's supplies five cheesecakes; several desserts are made on the premises, including "Bermuda Triangle," a wedge of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a mixture of raspberries, strawberries and blueberries topped with a rich crème anglaise. Remarkable-sounding, yes, but I opted for a seemingly plainer chocolate-chocolate cake that tasted anything but plain: dense, rich, layered and slathered with a creamy-smooth chocolate frosting.

Service is nothing short of perfect. It's clear the waitstaff shares the Sydows' passion for the restaurant. Dishes are described with evident enthusiasm, flatware is quickly replaced between courses, appropriate wines are recommended with aplomb. All that should be expected, of course; still, I am constantly reminded how sloppy and casual service can be at other restaurants.

The life aquatic: Wholly Mackerel owner and executive 
chef John Sydow serves superlative seafood in west 
county.
Jennifer Silverberg
The life aquatic: Wholly Mackerel owner and executive chef John Sydow serves superlative seafood in west county.

Details

Pan-fried frogs' legs $8
Bouillabaisse $28
Prosciutto-wrapped halibut $24
Roasted duck breast $23
Chocolate-chocolate cake $6

636-256-3949. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue.-Fri.; dinner 5-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat., 5-9 p.m. Sun.

403 Lafayette Center, Ballwin

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Wholly Mackerel is the "I know a little place" kind of restaurant diners like to quietly take their friends and recommend in hushed tones, promising that their secret won't spread far. But promises are meant to be broken, especially if you're hooked on great seafood.

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