Another example: The "plat du jour" on one visit was a single plump veal sweetbread served with potato purée, arugula and a truffle-spiked sauce. With the exception of the sauce, the accompaniments added nothing to the sweetbread, but it hardly mattered: The sweetbread offered considerable pleasure of its own, its crisp exterior yielding to its unique flavor and texture (something like congealed cream). Contrast that with a dish (now retired, I think) at Niche, in which sweetbreads were served with a popcorn foam, an odd substance that overwhelmed the sweetbreads' glories.

And now a word about the French fries. I don't think I've ever said this about an item at one of Craft's restaurants, but Brasserie's fries are no good. Thin, all crunch, no flavor. They might pass muster at a sports bar, but when you're tucking into a good strip loin steak (medium rare, doused with shallot butter), you want — no, you need — medium-thick fries, golden brown on the outside, pillowy soft within.

Service is very good, brisk but not rushed. I'm compelled to single out sommelier Andrey Ivanov, who with enthusiasm helped me choose a dessert wine — which ended up being a liqueur — that would hold its own against a very sweet dessert of profiteroles. The wine list is mostly French (Bordeaux dominate the reds), with many bottles priced under $50.

And Brasserie makes three.
And Brasserie makes three.

Location Info

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Brasserie by Niche

4580 Laclede Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

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Brasserie by Niche
Onion soup...$6
Duck confit...$16
Cassoulet...$20
Short ribs...$20
4580 Laclede Avenue; 314-454-0600.
Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tue-Fri., Dinner 5-10 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 5-11 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 5-10 p.m. Sun. Brunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sun.

Aside from those profiteroles, desserts include the aforementioned crème brûlée, a very good apple tarte tatin (essentially apple pie, upside-down) topped with crème fraîche and chocolate cake with, yes, a molten-chocolate center — though a scoop of toasted-almond ice cream rescued this last dish from cliché.

If not as whimsical or indulgent as the desserts served at Niche or Taste, these desserts fit Brasserie perfectly. They are slam-dunk dishes executed with skill and grace and — and this is vital — priced very reasonably. Here, by design, Craft doesn't need a trick up his sleeve. Here that sleeve can display the magician's heart.

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