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What may well prove to be one of the most unusual restaurants in St. Louis is just over a month from opening, said Chef Liz Schuster.
(The eatery was originally going to be called Mutti, slang for “mother” in German, but Schuster relented, she said, and decided to keep the name familiar to fans of the Tenacious Eats “Movies for Foodies” experience.)
The restaurant, which Schuster hepped us to here, will boast an open kitchen with no “fourth wall,” as it were. “It will be a very large kitchen that is essentially one big open room,” explained Schuster (below) last fall. “Everyone will be eating at the chef's table; all the tables will be chef's tables.”
“Diners will be able to smell everything as it cooks and take it all in,” she said. “It is a huge kitchen with an unbelievably long hot line. We have 22 burners, a beautiful grill, and windows in the kitchen. You'll be able to look straight down the line and see me and all the cooks. I've been in some open kitchens where you can kind of see the chef's head, or only his arms moving, like it's a puppet show. We'll show you much more, all the action, food on the flame and the grill. There will even be some nights where we'll go out and cook on portable units on the floor around the guests, just because.”
The restaurant will debut with breakfast and lunch, and take its time before eventually opening for dinner, she added.
The menu will be a blend of the Eastern European influences that formed Schuster's early cooking experiences, integrated with locally available ingredients, she said. It will be “short, uncomplicated, seasonal, and changing.”
For breakfast, look for the “Two-in-Bed” breakfast salad, comprised of two sunny side-up eggs, Marcoot Jersey Creamery Alpine cheese, Concord grapes, greens, and a dressing of hazelnut oil, champagne vinegar, and shallots. A shirred egg will be cooked in butter and served with pomodoro sauce. A blue cornmeal and Scottish oat pancake, will be “hearty and nutty,” the chef said, “with a beautiful blue color,” and served with local honey and maple syrup, and a house-made sausage link containing pork, chicken, and apple. Greek yogurt parfaits made to your liking may include house-made granola, berry compotes, jams, and almond and peanut butters.
Lunch will include croque-monsieur and -madame sandwiches, made with ham, cheese, and a dijon bechamel sauce on brioche, with optional fried eggs. Schuster is currently developing her own socca crepes, made with garbanzo and fava bean flour, and stuffed with goat cheese, fresh greens, and an optional protein of brisket or local Amish chicken breast. She may also bring back a fave from her Scottish Arms days, she said. “The Stinger” has bleu cheese and a slice of honeycomb melted together on grilled brioche, a side salad sprinkled with granulated honey, and a garnish of pickled grapes.
On Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, the space will turn into a screening room for Schuster's magical “Movies for Foodies” experience. The themed menus-that-match-the-movie nights will not commence at the new Hampton Avenue HQ until July, said the chef. Her opening month of screenings will be a tribute to the late director Harold Ramis. “Ramis-O-Rama” will include dishes based on scenes from “Animal House,” “Stripes,” “Caddyshack,” and “Ghostbusters.”
In the meantime, you can continue getting your fix of these themed evenings in the back room at Meyer's Grove, where Tenacious Eats hosts events every Thursday (next up, A League of Their Own). Some of the most well-attended recent dinner-and-a-movie nights have included “Mean Girls,” “Chocolat,” “Amelie,” and “The Princess Bride.” It's hard to express the joy conferred when Schuster and aide de camp Wil Pelly of Sanctuaria whipped up 'Pizza in a Cup,' as Steve Martin's character ate the same in “The Jerk,” screened earlier this year. Fun stuff.
Schuster did confirm that she will offer slices of the massive timpano drum-shaped pasta casserole immortalized in the film “Big Night,” at both breakfast and lunch.
“It takes six hours to make,” said Schuster, "so we're probably going to have to start firing it at 2 a.m., and by 8:30 a.m. we'll be ready to sell slices of it. It's gigantic; you can cut it into 30 slices, and each slice is like a piece of deep-dish pizza. Each slice has layers of pasta, egg, salami, meatballs, cheese and all kinds of yumminess. It's dense and overwhelming.”
Offering the quirky dish was a goal of Tenacious Chef de Cuisine Justin Yarrington, who passed away suddenly last autumn.
The restaurant will also play host to a special Mother's Day brunch on May 11, featuring Dr. Dan the Pancake Man plating up his uncanny griddled portraits of diners, along with a screening of “Steel Magnolias.”
Schuster also said that every Saturday morning, Tenacious will show Saturday morning cartoons and offer a discount for those who show up in their pajamas.
A chef without a proper home, Schuster has had to get used to finishing her elaborate meals with tabletop appliances at the kitchen-less Meyer's Grove. Having a sprawling kitchen with 22 burners and all the modern touches will surely be a relief from having to jury-rig the equipment in the back room of a pub.
“Yes,” she conceded, “but by this point I've got the Meyer's Grove deal down to a science. It's not like I'm gonna rush out and start sous-viding everything, unless it's appropriate. But yes, more burners will be great. I'll have to get used to it.”
Tenacious Eats 4915 Hampton Ave. Scheduled to open May 13 Open for breakfast and lunch Tues. through Sat. Open for late brunch noon to 4 p.m. Sun. Open for “Movies for Foodies” events Thurs., Fri., and Sat. evenings starting in July Closed Mon. www.tenaciouseats.com