"Hand Cut Noodles" are a tangle of fresh ribbon pasta in a "sauce" of half-melted Pecorino cheese. Even more than the tomato bread with prosciutto, this is an ode to simplicity: the texture of the pasta, the richness and bite of the cheese, the spicing only the zing of freshly ground black pepper. A tart chock-full of spring vegetables (fava beans, asparagus, carrots and radishes) could have used a tad more spice. Brie gave it some body and character, but the dish as a whole lacked the vibrancy you associate with spring.

Mussels come in a white-wine broth thickened by the mollusks' own liquid and enlivened by red chiles. The broth is outstanding — I'd be content with a bowl of it and some bread — but the kitchen needs to take better care with its mussels. Several in my bowl were gritty, and a couple had opened but a sliver. The misstep stood out especially because it is the kind of detail rarely overlooked in one of the Niche restaurants. Another detail that was in stark contrast to the Niche standard was the table service: It was brusque, at best, and multiple times I had to ask for fresh plates and silverware between courses.

There are a few holdovers from the original menu: the spicy meatballs, the bruschetta with roasted radishes, the carne cruda, the selection of terrines. What hasn't carried over — not yet, anyhow — is the willingness to push St. Louisans' pieholes out of our narrow comfort zone. There is no octopus here, no rabbit and, to use maybe the most famous example from the original Taste, no lamb balls.

Merritt Duncan and Adam Altnether in the Taste kitchen.  For a slideshow on Taste by Laura Ann Miller, go here.
Laura Ann mMiller
Merritt Duncan and Adam Altnether in the Taste kitchen. For a slideshow on Taste by Laura Ann Miller, go here.

Location Info

Map

Niche

7734 Forsyth Blvd.
Clayton, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Clayton

Taste

4584 Laclede Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63108

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Central West End

4584 Laclede Avenue; 314-361-1200.
Hours: 5 p.m.-1 a.m. daily

Of course, the most important holdover from Taste v1.0 stands behind the bar: Ted Kilgore. The master mixologist, more responsible than anyone else for dragging St. Louis cocktail culture into the here and now, offers a lengthy menu of his creations, handily divided by flavor and body profile (e.g., "crisp, light, aromatic"). To my surprise, given the current heat and humidity, my favorite drinks were listed under the "Full, Dark, Robust" heading: the aptly named "Favorite Things," so named because Kilgore created them using his current favorite libations, mixes Bols Genever gin, the Italian digestif Barolo Chinat, the gentian root- and quinine-flavored aperitif Bonal and the aperitif Antica.

Sitting at the bar, listening to Kilgore describe his drinks, brought back the vibe of the original Taste. (I should mention that while I went unspotted when sitting at a table, Kilgore knows me by sight.) Yes, that restaurant is gone, but if its expanded successor is to flourish, its staff can't lose sight of the passion and attention to detail that Kilgore helped make the hallmark of the original.

Altnether, fresh from pampering his prosciutto from shoulder to sublime, seems like the man to meet the challenge.

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Bappaditya Ghosh
Bappaditya Ghosh

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