The tasting menu builds gradually toward heavier — though not heavy — courses. Crucially, with the exception of the final two courses, meat and seafood serve as accents, not centerpieces. This keeps the meal from tipping from indulgence into gluttony. It also represents yet another evolution in how we think, or should think, about food.

For that matter, I remember the seafood and meat less for the proteins themselves than for the overall dish. A buttermilk panna cotta further enriched a small piece of buttery escolar, while Meyer lemon and asparagus gave the fish a vital spark. A four-ounce piece of sous-vide rib eye was incredibly tender, but I found myself happily distracted by all the green on the plate: a braised leek, a chive purée and a chive meringue like a cookie grown in a garden.

Your tasting menu concludes with two desserts as well as petits fours. (Overall, you will likely end up with a dozen courses.) Unusual ice cream was the theme on the night I ordered mine. One course brought a version in which the kitchen had steeped toasted oak, lending it smoky vanilla character. The second dessert course created "powdered" crème fraîche ice cream by freezing it with liquid nitrogen and then crumbling it in a blender. The kitchen paired this powder (still quite cold) with lemon curd. The ice cream was interesting, but I couldn't help but think of Dippin' Dots, perpetual ice cream of the future.

Gerard Craft. Slideshow: Inside Niche in Clayton.
Jennifer Silverberg
Gerard Craft. Slideshow: Inside Niche in Clayton.
Nate Hereford plates the escolar. Slideshow: Inside Niche in Clayton.
Jennifer Silverberg
Nate Hereford plates the escolar. Slideshow: Inside Niche in Clayton.

Location Info



7734 Forsyth Blvd.
Clayton, MO 63105

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Clayton

7734 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-773-7755.
Hours: 5-9 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 5-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat.

Is Niche a perfect restaurant? Of course not. Other restaurants have deeper, more interesting wine lists — though Niche has improved considerably on this front since it first opened — and its beer selection is anemic. And Craft, Altnether and Hereford pulled back a bit on those final two savory courses, defaulting to more conventional luxuries in the escolar and rib eye rather than more innovative or surprising approaches.

Still, from beginning to end, Niche remains the most consistently appealing, engaging and — above all else — delicious dining experience in St. Louis. More important, as the dining scene here continues to gain steam, it should serve not as target at which other chefs should take aim, but an inspiration.

You work hard. You surround yourself with great talent. You innovate and experiment, even at the risk of falling flat on your face. And you never just do the best you can. You do better.

Slideshow: Inside Niche in Clayton

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