Monday, November 9, 2015

Ari's

9992 Linn Ferry Drive
St. Louis, Mo.
On the Web
On Facebook

My friend and co-worker Doug suggested this place. Twice. Once a few months ago, then after I forgot about it, he reminded me again. I scanned the online menu and sent Angel a message with the link and one word: "Lamb!"
Her response: "Have you made the reservations yet?"
We watch a lot of food porn on TV and there are certain things that we've decided we'd like to try, but we had to be reasonably sure that the place we tried it was good. We'd hate to try something and not have it again just because it was poorly prepared.
Angel and I both grew up in areas that were decidedly midwestern and non-ethnic in cuisine. So even things that are fairly common in other places, we've just never had an opportunity to try. Like lamb.
I can't say I've never had lamb, but I don't recall ever having it.
The Place:
Not too far from the Concord Grill, just off Tesson Ferry and Lindbergh in South County. Angel recognized it, having passed it many times on the way to clients' homes to pick up or drop off dogs. "I always thought it was a sandwich place." She said. It did look like that, the signage boasted of gyros, sandwiches. and burgers.
Inside though, instead of a deli, it looked more fine dining. White tablecloths (covered with glass) thick red cloth napkins, classic Greek art on the walls, dark wood floors. There was a bar, separated from the dining area by a tasteful glass block wall. Breaking up the ambiance were three large TV's, one above the bar, two in the dining area. All were muted and tuned to college football, three different games as best I could tell by the bright colors of the players' costumes. This is the sort of thing you see in a sports bar. Not even Ruby Tuesday puts TV's in the dining area. They were muted though, so I just ignored them. Overhead, Greek music, all familiar, some would say stereotypical, played from the sound system.
We were told to sit wherever we liked. We picked a table in the back. The dining area was not massive, but it was very well laid out. a couple of dozen four-top booths and tables fit efficiently into the space.  Immediately upon sitting we were waited on by a young lady with definite Greek features, who later told me her name was. . . something. . . I couldn't quite make it out, but it sounded nice. She even told us how it was pronounced "in my country".  She was very nice and attentive, asking about drinks.
Tea, tea, Pepsi.
While we were waiting, a neighboring table was served a plate I couldn't quite make out. the server set it afire and shouted "Opa!", as is apparently the tradition for that particular dish. I later learned that it was called Saganaki, a flaming Greek cheese. WARNING: Greek cheese is apparently flammable!
The Food:
When one of our drinks was delivered (they were having to brew a fresh batch of tea) The menus looked similar to the online version. It listed pasta, pizza, fish, chicken and there it was, lamb.  Two options, shank and chops. The shank was covered in a marinara sauce, which to me sounded a bit over the top. I wanted to discover lamb, I didn't want to swim through spaghetti sauce to find it. It appealed to Angel though. She chose it with the soup and a baked potato. I happily chose the chops, about the most expensive thing on the menu.  I asked our server about 'Greek Potatoes' She explained they were sauteed with onions, peppers and olives. That sounded good, so I went for that, when in Greece. . . goes the old saying. Or was that Rome? I always get those two confused, what with ancient empires and all those crude, cruel and crazed deities. Instead of the soup, I took the house salad. Adam, staying true to form went with the Greek Chicken and the soup.
The young lady asked if we had questions. I did, several, but Angel jumped in and asked for the ravioli appetizer. The toasted ravioli (because, St. Louis) was pretty good, fluffy, yet crispy. They would have been a little better if we'd had something to wash them down with.
Our tea finally arrived, a young man, also decidedly Greek in features, brought the tea. It was rather weak, but it was fresh.
The soups and salads came soon. The soup they'd chosen was a lemon chicken. Small bowls, it looked rich and creamy. The salad was about what I expected, maybe a little less. Mediterranean style salads are usually similar, lettuce, onions, shredded  white cheese, olives, maybe a little chunk of artichoke and maybe a cherry tomato or two. This version contained only the lettuce, onion and cheese. At least the dressing was correct, olive-y. In all a pretty good salad.
Adam and Angel seemed to enjoy the soup. Afterword they agreed that it may have been a little too-lemony.
I made sure to not finish the salad. Often during the week, my entire dinner is a salad. . .well, maybe one with a few more things in it, but I can fill up on a salad.
The salad plate was never taken away, a minor annoyance, but soon the entree's arrived. I had expected three chops and the potatoes, there was quite a bit more on the plate though. The thick, grilled chops, each  about the same diameter as a baseball, were sitting on a pillow of fluffed rice and surrounded by steamed veggies, cauliflower, broccoli (blech), squash, carrots, etc. I would have been happy with the chops and the potatoes, all that other stuff was going to go untouched.
Angel's shank was indeed hidden in a thick layer of marinara. Also surrounded by the veggies.
So, for the first time in my life, that I recall, I carved into some lamb. About an inch thick, with that grilled texture that makes any meat better. It was more similar to beef then pork, but not quite the same. It was not gamy at all. It tasted exactly like a properly cooked piece of meat. I struggled a little finding all the meat on the bone, not being familiar wit a lamb chop cut. In the end it was easier to navigate by picking it up like a chicken leg and gnawing around the curves and corners. I liked it, a lot. Truly a good piece of meat.
The potatoes, what few there actually were, had absorbed those other things it had been sauteed with, a hint of olive and an almost overwhelming amount of onion. . . it mostly tasted of onion.
I like onions, I love onions, I pretty much put onions in everything I cook. But this was a little overpowering. the texture of the potatoes was spot on, they just need to dial back the onions a bit.
Angel seemed to enjoy her shank. There was a lot of red sauce, but that didn't seem to deter her. "Really interesting." Is what she said about it, though conceding she'd probably go for chops or even kabobs the next time. Adam said little about his chicken. "Good." was his total stated assessment. His dinner was served with the same rice bed and steamed veggies.
Summary:
Since this was more about trying lamb than the restaurant itself, I'd have to say I loved my chops. they were obviously prepared well. So for that, they score 100%.
As for the rest of the experience, well, there's room for improvement. The service was mostly good, our server was very good about stopping by and checking on us, not so great about clearing expended dishes. Nothing major though.
More than anything I got the impression that the dishes were. . . dated. kind of like Beef Wellington or Chicken Cordon Bleu. The beds of rice and steamed veggies seemed to be a throwback to a mid century dining guide. Today's dishes are simpler, cleaner. As I said, I would have been pleased with just the chops and the potatoes. No need for all that other stuff, unless we'd asked for it. The three TV's made it seem like they were going for sports bar, a thing that this place is decidedly not.
however, those are the biggest complaints I can come up with.
Price-wise, well, I did order one of the most expensive things on the menu. So the appetizer and three full entrees came to about $73. Not awful, but for that there was a lot on the plate that did not get eaten.
We may go again. . .




Ari's Restaurant & Bar - Lin Ferry Dr. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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