2. Garlic-crusted chicken breast
Monarch, 7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-644-3995
[“Josh Almighty,” January 22, 2009]
Chicken dishes are often a sop to the unadventurous diner, but chef Josh Galliano's garlic-crusted chicken breast is a winner — though here the chicken really plays a supporting role to the garlic. Not only is there the garlic crust, but also a purée of black garlic, which marries the subtle flavor of roasted garlic to the tannic edge of raisins and adds a striking grace note to this dish. This might not sound especially exciting, but it strikes me as Galliano's most impressive creation: Without calling attention to itself — no clever names, no showy presentation — it takes the humble pleasure of a roast-chicken dinner and presents it in a new and interesting form.

1. Octopus
Taste by Niche, 1831 Sidney Street; 314-773-7755
[“Accounting for Taste,” October 15, 2009]
Each serving — each bite — was a revelation. I didn't know octopus could be this delicious, or this tender. The tentacles are roasted with onion and olive oil before service. They shrink considerably and take on a texture closer to buttery scallops than their own chewy nature. They are served chilled in a light red-pepper oil with slices of potato confit and a garnish of pea shoots with preserved-lemon sauce. (Since my review was published, the octopus preparation has changed. Still, it was merely one of several Taste dishes — including the roasted-radish bruschetta, the Moroccan lamb — that could have held the top spot. Go.)

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