Monday, June 17, 2013

First Look: Tree House Serves Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw and Gluten-Free Bistro-Style Dishes on South Grand [Photos]

Posted By on Mon, Jun 17, 2013 at 10:31 AM

       Pastry chef Victoria Lopez's raw, vegan and gluten-free banana torte. | Mabel Suen
  •        Pastry chef Victoria Lopez's raw, vegan and gluten-free banana torte. | Mabel Suen

Sound Grand just got a lot greener, and we're not just talking about the lime-colored accents painted on the refurbished building at the corner of Grand Boulevard and Connecticut Street. Tree House (3177 South Grand Boulevard; 314-696-2100), a modern vegetarian and vegan bistro, opened its doors recently in the space previously occupied by Petra Café & Hookah Lounge, serving up a menu of sustainable plant-based foods prepared in a contemporary style and setting.

See also: - Vegetarian Options at Remy's Kitchen and Wine Bar - First Look: Annie Moons Bakery and Café in Tower Grove South - Sneak Peek: Panorama at the St. Louis Art Museum

During Sunday evening dinner service, owner Bay Tran multitasks. She cheerfully seats guests, fills water glasses and stops to chat at each table. Meanwhile, bar manager Billy Holley shakes up an almond-milk cocktail at the adjacent bar, and waitstaff expeditiously take dishes of fragrant fried beets and tamales out to hungry herbivores. With the small dining room's tables in such close quarters to each other, it's easy to sneak a peek and see what other people have ordered.

Executive chef John Intrieri and sous chef Tanya Brown, in matching brown chef coats, prepare these plates from an open kitchen in the back of the room, and pastry chef Victoria Lopez pokes her head in every now from the back of the kitchen to present an artfully plated slice of cake or to lend a hand.

       Victoria Lopez, Tanya Brown and John Intrieri | Mabel Suen
  •        Victoria Lopez, Tanya Brown and John Intrieri | Mabel Suen

The close-knit culinary team developed the menu with Tran, a third generation restaurateur from a family that got its start cooking professionally in Vietnam and to this day continues to offer traditional Asian dishes a few doors over at Mekong (3131 South Grand Boulevard; 314-773-3100).

Diners will see some of that Far-East influence on the menu -- take, for instance, banh mi ($12) with mushroom pate, carrot-daikon slaw, jalapenos and a choice of side -- but Tran strives to not lean one way or another as far as the overall ethnic theme of the restaurant goes. Intrieri and Lopez have Latin American roots and introduced menu items like roasted plantains and yucca fries as well as "Pan de Queso" ($6), a South American cheese bread with malagueta sauce and chimichurri.

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