You don't have to live on the coast to eat good seafood. Thanks to next-day air, restaurants that are willing to pay — or, rather, restaurants with customers who are willing to pay — can obtain very good fish and shellfish. A chef who understands seafood, though, is another matter. In that respect St. Louis is lucky to have Kevin Willmann and his new restaurant — the year's Best New Restaurant, in fact — Farmhaus. Willmann earned his stripes as a cook along the Gulf Coast and remains an avid fisherman. Seafood isn't the focus of Farmhaus, which tries to highlight local, sustainable and seasonal food. (Mahi mahi and escolar are many things, but local ain't one of 'em.) But Willmann is so skilled at bringing out the flavors and textures of fish, bivalves and crustaceans that it would be a shame if he or we ignored his talents just to make a point. He can go light, poaching escolar in a delicate blend of butter and white wine and pairing it with grilled prawns (the prawns served head-on, as a true seafood lover would insist). He can go heavy, roasting striped bass in duck fat or blackening mahi mahi and pairing it with andouille sausage. For those who insist on local (or at least localish) product, you might get lucky: On occasion, Willmann will serve fish he has caught himself.
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