Spice-n-Grill's Beef Nihari: One of 100 St. Louis Dishes You Must Eat Right Now

The Gut Check One Hundred is our accounting of the 100 dishes in St. Louis that you must eat right now. These are the best dishes at the newest restaurants and the newest dishes at the best restaurants. These are the 100 dishes that define St. Louis dining in 2013. Our list culminates this fall when the Riverfront Times Best of St. Louis 2013 names the "Best Dish" of the year.

The beef nihari at Spice-n-Grill | Jennifer Silverberg
The beef nihari at Spice-n-Grill | Jennifer Silverberg

When owners Zahid and Shaheena Khan closed Spice-n-Grill (6800 Olive Boulevard, University City; 314-721-2421) "for renovations" in October of last year, less than twelve months after it opened, I suffered the worst sort of déjà vu.

In 2010 the Khans shuttered their restaurant Indian Food, where I'd fallen in love with the Pakistani beef stew called nihari.

Spice-n-Grill had marked the return of both the Khans and their nihari. I couldn't stand to lose that dish again.

See Also: - Ian Froeb's RFT Review of Spice-n-Grill (2012) - Jennifer Silverberg's RFT Slideshow of Spice-n-Grill

Fortunately, Spice-n-Grill's closure was temporary. It returned in December. I learned my lesson. I won't take nihari for granted. Neither will you once you've tried it.

If you've never eaten nihari, while "beef stew" is a handy basic description, it undersells the dish. The flavor is rich, yes, but also bright, with notes of ginger, lime and cilantro. The finish lasts until the very moment before you can put your finger on exactly what its mysterious spice is.

Even as you bite into a tender hunk of beef shank (or lamb, should you prefer), nihari is more likely to remind you of Vietnamese pho than beef Bourguignon.

Is there a dish that you think belongs among the Gut Check One Hundred 2013? Let us know!

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