Do enough light internet stalking of the food world in Missouri and you’ll eventually run in to an interesting concept in St. Louis: The Underground Restaurant, or Entre Underground as it calls itself. It’s not subterranean as the name may suggest. Instead it’s more of a dinner club of sorts, and exclusive in the sense that the website requires a password to enter it. They have dinners on a somewhat regular basis with a menu and price available for viewing online. Making it even more exciting is the fact that you don’t find out where the dinner will be held until the day of the event. On top of that, most underground restaurants are technically illegal because they don’t pay taxes and there are no county health inspectors poking around either. (However, some of the excitement dies when you realize that pretty much anyone can get a password and it’s not really exclusive…damn).
When I first heard about it, I was all over it. So on February 13th we got the location of our dinner and headed to St. Louis. Our location was in what I think was a rented room of a theater, with two tables set up family style. Sorry for the crappy quality, it was dark and it’s a cell phone camera. At any rate, the menu for the night was prix fixe and was $65 per person, + $25 per for wine. Steep for sure. The menu was as follows:
Oyster Rockefeller: arugula, bacon and yuzu
Lobster Cappuccino: saffron, shaved foie gras
Terrine of Lobster and Leek: pickled mustard seed buerre blanc
Sous Vide Bison Tenderloin: pommes maxim, cocoa nibs, pickled strawberries, dark chocolate beer puree, smoked duck fat hollandaise
Brown Butter Shortbread: chocolate mousse, chambord sabayon, caramel powder
An inventive sounding menu, something that is made to sound very impressive for sure. Here’s the reality: the quality ranged from outstanding (the dessert was fabulous) to flavorless (the leek and lobster terrine). There were parts of it that felt very well thought out and were executed by someone who knows what they’re doing, yet other parts felt thrown together and pointless.
The lobster and leek terrine is a prime example: when I say it had no flavor I mean it, it tasted like nothing. I was expecting a punch from a mustard seed beurre blanc, but alas. The pomme maxim again was pointless, it tasted like a very bland roasted potato which is not at all what pommes maxim should taste like. Frankly, it should have been left off the plate. The “shaved foie gras” on the lobster cappuccino (soup) might as well have been shaved beef jerky because I couldn’t taste that it made any difference at all, it appears to have been there for show.
But for every low point there was an equally high point. The shortbread cookies were very good, special even. The lobster soup was delicate and wonderful on the tongue, and the dark chocolate beet puree was an interesting combination I’d like to have again. The coffee they served with the dessert was done through a french press, and was very good as well.
All in all, it’s something I’d recommend to most people to do at least once. We sat across from some great people and my food criticism aside, had a wonderful time meeting and eating with people and we left full, fat and happy. I’m not going to rate it, but I will do it again.