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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Liluma

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2007 at 4:46 PM

I visit many restaurants -- too many to cover in the print version of the RFT. From time to time I'll share my thoughts on these visits in briefer and somewhat less formal blog-exclusive reviews.

Nearly half a decade has passed since Liluma opened in what has to be one of the most advantageous locations in all St. Louis -- the corner of Maryland and Euclid, smack-dab in the heart of the Central West End. The restaurant still turns tables on a Saturday night. In fact, I had to wait fifteen minutes past my reservation to be seated.

I began with an order of pommes frites that had been pulled from the deep fryer maybe half a minute too late and what the menu noted was a favorite of head chef Tim Zenner: fried okra. This was terrific, the batter thin and crisp, the okra tender but not soggy. On the side was a crock of what tasted a lot like ranch dressing -- a perfect pairing, frankly.

For dinner I had the night's special, skate wing in a beurre noisette. A simple dish, but indulgent in its pairing of buttery sweet skate and brown butter. The only misstep was a side of smashed Yukon Gold potatoes, which pushed the plate's butter quotient to the breaking point. Besides, potatoes were just wrong on this sultry August evening, much too heavy for the relatively light fish.

My fiancée had orrecchiette with roasted cauliflower and pancetta. The pasta was very good. A nice value, too. A $7 serving, meant as the pasta course in a three-course dinner, was quite generous. The dish was surprisingly familiar.

Of course! We'd had the same dish a few months ago at Acero, Jim Fiala's new Italian restaurant in Maplewood. Not such a surprise, really. Fiala owns Acero and Liluma as well as The Crossing in Clayton; Tim Zenner was in Acero's kitchen during my visits there.

Neither my dinner at Liluma nor lunch a few days previous was quite as memorable as my visits to Acero were. The menu as a whole will be familiar to those who frequent the city's many bistros. Service was too casual, and the sandwiches I ordered at lunch (roast pork loin with apple, blue cheese, red onion and too much mustard; chicken with cucumber and the spicy Indonesian condiment sambal) were sloppily constructed.

So Liluma isn't as exciting as its younger sibling. But on a hot Saturday evening when raucous crowds were spilling out of Bar Louie, Sub-Zero and other CWE hotspots, it was an oasis of calm and comfort.

Liluma 238 North Euclid Avenue 314-361-7771 11 am.- 9 p.m. Mon.-Thu. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (Closed. Sun.) $$$

-Ian Froeb

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