Best New Restaurant - 2010
Farmhaus is not, in fact, a farmhouse. The cuisine isn't German. Owner and executive chef Kevin Willmann chose the name as a tribute to his heritage, several generations of Illinois farmers, and his first solo restaurant works as a sort of biography-in-food of the supremely talented chef. Yes, locally sourced ingredients are a dime a dozen these days and no guarantee of quality on the plate, but Willmann's connection to the area, his pride, is clear in the care he affords the produce from his favorite farmers. Even his most clever dishes — like "Breakfast": a poached egg, maple sausage, roasted pork belly, corn-flour blinis and whipped maple butter — are crafted to highlight the intense natural flavors of each element. Willmann's biography isn't confined to the Midwest, however. He made his bones as a young cook in the Florida panhandle and displays a masterful touch with seafood: A dish of wine-poached escolar with grilled prawns might be the best plate of food served in St. Louis over the past twelve months. All of this is presented without an iota of pretension. Farmhaus is casual, a place that prides itself on $10 "Blue Plate" lunch specials (think meat loaf, fried chicken, pork chops) as much as it does on a plate of scallops with truffled whipped cream. There are no gimmicks, just a great chef, a great staff and great food. It's exactly what St. Louis needed — and what we will continue to need, for as long as Willmann wants to tell us his story.