Study in Scarlet

Decadence colors the Washington Avenue loft district Red.

Only one small plate failed: a generous serving of seared duck breast over a "hash" of chopped apple, turnip and Brussels sprouts in a pickled apricot purée. The duck breast by itself was superb, the skin crisp and the meat tender and flavorful. The hash, though, was bitter; not even the apples could balance things out, their sweetness undermined by the too-tart apricot purée.

Of the large plates I tried, the braised lamb shank stood out. Rich with the flavor of its own juices and a meaty ragout of wild mushrooms, it quivered at the mere mention of a fork. Spring peas in the shell gave the dish a nice snap. Lobster tail in a tomato-Armagnac sauce served with wedges of a spinach-goat cheese strudel made for an odd combination. The lobster meat wasn't particularly succulent, and the sauce didn't register at all. On the other hand, the strudel was delicious, the filling moist and flavorful, the pastry shell light and crisp. What the lobster and strudel were doing on the same plate, I couldn't tell you, and I have to wonder if the Cruz and his staff are hamstrung by Red's "concept."

They certainly seem to have more fun with desserts, which as far as I can tell make no claim to being Eastern European. Best of the bunch is the black pepper goat-cheese cake. Sounds odd, I know, but the tart funk of goat cheese and the kick from a dusting of black pepper is beautifully balanced by bits of granola in both butterscotch and caramel sauce. Chocolate beignets with burnt-honey ice cream and caramel sauce are also fantastic.

Bartender Melissa Bullard adds some sparkle to Red's Eastern European cuisine.
Jennifer Silverberg
Bartender Melissa Bullard adds some sparkle to Red's Eastern European cuisine.

Details

Red

Short ribs...$12
Red snapper...$14
Lamb shank...$23
Goat-cheese cake...$8

1130 Washington Avenue; 314-588-7864. Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Mon.-Fri. Dinner: 5-10 p.m. Mon.-Thu. 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat. Light menu available 5 p.m.-midnight Sun. (Bar open nightly till 1 a.m.)

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The wine list wisely eschews the Eastern Bloc, though its array of Californian, French and Australian wines harbors few surprises. For some decidedly un-Communist decadent indulgence — which, after all, is what brought you to Red — order yourself a $450 bottle of Cristal.

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