Chicken and rice is ubiquitous the world over: Stick it in a tortilla and call it a Mexican dish in Chihuahua, or blend it with coconut milk and curry in Chiang Mai and call it Thai. No wonder, though -- chicken and rice is uncomplicated, versatile and, when flawlessly prepared, every bit as noteworthy as more "exotic" entrees it shares menu space with.
And that's really saying something, ordering a chicken kabob over rice when you're at Al Waha (3191 South Grand Boulevard; 314-664-3940), one of the only Bedouin joints in the country, when you could get something with, say, pomegranate, ground beef, apricot, chiles and raisins all in the same dish (that'd be the Al Waha plate, by the way).
The eight fork-tender chicken squares come simply presented, the pieces parked like two tiny trains atop a mound of basmati rice that's slick and soft yet retains the tiniest bit of bite. The salad that shares the plate -- a tangle of green onion, cucumber, cilantro, tomato and shredded lettuce -- is a cool complement to the sunny yellow chicken that tastes just as cheery as its hue suggests.
But ginger is the most salient taste here -- its flavor is bright and bracing -- and it will leave you thinking you can make something this simple, this delicious, at home whenever you want. (Hint: You can't.) "It's just chicken and rice, after all," you'll reason. "It'll taste the same." (It won't.)
Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at [email protected].
#59: Seafood Ravioli at Gian-Tony's Ristorante #60: Raw Veggie Burger at PuraVegan #61: Hot Chick On-a Stick at Fast Eddie's Bon Air #62: Mixed Grill Platter at Flaco's Cocina #63: Arancini From Mangia Mobile #64: Three Coins in the Fountain at the Fountain on Locust #65: Pan-Fried Noodles at Pho Grand #66: Pastelitos at Fritanga # 67: Bento Box at Blue Ocean Sushi # 68: Lamb Burger at The Scottish Arms #69: Crispy Pork Spring Rolls at Bobo Noodle House
#70: Turkey Melt and Field Greens Salad at Schlafly Bottleworks #71: The Vegetarian Platter at Ranoush #72: Vegetarian Meatballs at Lucas Park Grille #73: Sizzling Rice Soup at Hunan and Peking Garden #74: Straw and Hay Pasta at Trattoria Marcella #75: Spaghetti Pomodoro at Babbo's Spaghetteria #76: Shrimp Fajitas at El Matador #77: Vegetable Quesadilla at Chava's #78: Companion Rustic Olive Bread #79: Salt and Pepper Shrimp from Wei Hong