SLAM's New Restaurant, Panorama, Is No Masterpiece

SLAM's New Restaurant, Panorama, Is No Masterpiece
Jennifer Silverberg
"Tofu: Marinated, Pressed, Grilled" brings roasted Ozark mushrooms, paired with petit root vegetables and two celery coulis. See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos.

The tricks photographers and food stylists use to dress up food for advertisements and editorial spreads are anything but appetizing. Elmer's glue is used to mimic milk, a coat of shoe polish and polyurethane give meat a faux juicy glaze and tampons soaked in boiling water are propped up behind cold food to make it appear steaming hot. The result of all these smoke and mirrors is mouthwatering food porn. Obviously, no one is supposed to eat any of it — after the shoot is over, it all goes in the trash.

See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos

The food at Panorama, the Saint Louis Art Museum's new fine-dining establishment, is similarly camera-ready as plate after gorgeous plate arrives as if plucked from the cover of Bon Appétit. This should come as no surprise. After all, the restaurant is located in a glass temple dedicated to world-class works of art. The stylized sparkle extends beyond plate presentation — Panorama's locally focused menu promises the splendor of ingredients at their peak. Its chef has a Culinary Institute of America pedigree, and the setting — perched atop Art Hill — is arguably one of the most lovely in the bistate area. In appearances, Panorama is an overwhelming success. However, after several visits, I wondered if — like the beautiful but inedible food from the magazines — the plates at Panorama aren't better suited for the walls of the adjacent galleries, rather than sustenance for hungry diners.

Panorama's dining room. See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos
Jennifer Silverberg
Panorama's dining room. See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos
The roasted-trout filet sandwich is made with fresh herbs and summer tomato between Companion olive bread. Served with a wheat-berry salad and red-wine vinaigrette.  See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos.
Jennifer Silverberg
The roasted-trout filet sandwich is made with fresh herbs and summer tomato between Companion olive bread. Served with a wheat-berry salad and red-wine vinaigrette. See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos.

Location Info

Map

Panorama

1 Fine Arts Drive
St. Louis, MO 63110

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: St. Louis - Forest Park

Details

Panorama
Warm water blue crab cakes...$9
Heritage pork meatballs...$12
Roasted local Missouri trout filet...$23

See also: Panorama Restaurant Photos
One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park; 314-655-5490.
Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tues.-Thurs., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat., 10 a.m-2 p.m. Sun. Closed Monday.

The dining room itself is something of a masterpiece with floor-to-ceiling windows that offer sweeping views of Forest Park in its autumnal, technicolor glory. The décor has a minimalist feel to it that captures the modern essence of the brand-new, $130 million East Building. The clientele oozes old money and private patronage; it's the kind of place where socialites go for pinot grigio-fueled power lunches.

A classic "New American" menu begs to be showcased in such a setting, and chef Edward Farrow is an avowed champion of the slow-food movement, committed to using environmentally friendly ingredients. His menu features the best the area's farms have to offer, from local game hen and lamb to Ozark mushrooms and Marcoot Jersey Creamery cheese. It's a testament to his skill that this recent transplant from the Southwest has captured the essence of Midwestern seasonal flavors; he comes to Panorama from the Phoenix Musical Instrument Museum where, under his direction, the café was named 2012's Best Museum Restaurant by the Arizona Republic.

With all this working for Panorama, I was surprised at how underwhelming the food was. The meal began well enough, with a starter of andouille sausage that was a playfully deconstructed version of gumbo. The grilled sausage, served atop a vinegar-based potato salad, satisfied with its smoky spice, and pickled onions gave the dish a refreshing tartness. However, the accompanying crawfish, tossed in a Dijon vinaigrette, had a somewhat musty flavor, causing me to question its freshness.

The "Ode to Autumn," a platter of seasonal vegetables, was visually stunning, but its appeal ended there. The dish was billed as a way to showcase a cornucopia of autumn produce. What was served was a plate with blanched, unseasoned string beans, Brussels sprouts and radishes, a few pieces of grilled squash, some sliced apples and a shot glass of cantaloupe juice that was awkward for sharing. These beautiful ingredients needed a little manipulation — at least something more than 30 seconds in a steamer. It tasted like something Gwyneth Paltrow would order while in the middle of one of her crazy cleanses.

On the other hand, I have to commend Panorama on its crab cake. As someone who recently moved back from the D.C. area, I have been spoiled by fresh Maryland crab and look with suspicion at anyone outside of the area who tries to replicate this regional delicacy. Surprisingly, Panorama's version is brimming with crab meat, a novel concept for a dish that all too often resembles a crab-flavored hush puppy. The meat was not jumbo lump, but it was fresh, and the cake was not complicated by unnecessary filler. A squash coulis and crisp apple pecan slaw completed the plate. They're just as good as those served dockside in Annapolis.

The heritage pork meatballs contained an overwhelming amount of fennel seed. The meatball was so studded with the anisey spice that I couldn't discern any other flavors. This completely masked the rich sweetness of the high-quality pork. The one highlight on the plate was the grilled polenta. Its bittersweet earthy char was the one flavor strong enough to shine through the fennel seed. The tomato-mushroom sauce was chunky and tart, but unlike the refined presentation of most of the other dishes, it was slopped in the bowl and did not escape the fennel seed infusion.

The roasted Missouri trout filet tasted fresh, but a little overdone. A salad of shrimp dressed with a Niçoise and saffron vinaigrette enhanced the simple fish with a salty note, although the shrimp itself was also a touch overcooked. The biggest problem of the plate, however, was the tomato and wheat berry salad, an odd choice considering the seasonal theme of the menu. At this time of year, it was no surprise that tomatoes had a mealy texture, and they were overmarinated to the point of seeming macerated.

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5 comments
butterfly91011
butterfly91011

Let's be honest... Any writer that call's themselves a "food critic" and refers to tampons in the same article is obviously lacking in class and is more tasteless than any food.  Disgusting...perhaps Ms.Baher should go back to programming.

Andy Sims
Andy Sims

Another reason for me to hate the art museum.

Trent Colquitt
Trent Colquitt

The ONLY way to truly come to a honest opinion about a restaurant is to go in person.

 
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