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A filet and batter-fried lobster as served at The Pear Tree.
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The decor at Twisted Tree incorporates dark wood reclaimed from a local church.
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Some St. Louisans will recall this brand of local beer.
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More are familiar with this one.
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In the days before alcohol sales at specialty, grocery, and drug stores, 905 was the liquor store of choice.
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Some well-placed memorabilia at Twisted Tree
The former Mile 277 Tap & Grill at 10701 Watson (at Lindbergh) has been transformed into a 10,000 square foot steakhouse that opens today.
Two families of successful restaurant operators grafted their proverbial family trees to form the 200-seat Twisted Tree, located in a building that diners of a certain age will remember as the Viking Lodge and Restaurant. Members of the Syberg family (Syberg’s, Helen Fitzgerald’s) own the business and Mike and Al Abbadessa contributed the concept, an update of their legendary Pear Tree restaurant in Bevier, Mo. Another legend, Jimmy Kristo (Jimmy’s Café on the Park), runs the front of the house; Syberg’s vet Will Kunderman is the GM.
Despite being a throwback restaurant—with familiar menu items and a wine list to match—Twisted Tree is unique in several ways.
Age of the Steaks – Simply put, Mike Abbadessa ages steaks on average longer than anyone else in town: approximately 129 days for strips and ribeyes, and 90 days for tenderloin (the average is 14-28 days). The numbers will change slightly in response to supply and demand, hence Twisted Tree's daily update via chalkboard.
Steaks are either wet-aged or dry-aged, or a combination of both. “Few people realize how much art is involved in this,” says Abbadessa, who’s been aging meat since 2010. “Too much wet age, and meat gets soft; too much dry age, and it gets pungent. Plus cattle are heavier in the winter—which means more marbling—and they're leaner in the summer when they don't eat as much…you have to account for all that.” The artisan admits that Twisted Tree's aging process is a work in progress. “At 187 days, the flavor is ridiculously good,” he says, “so who knows, maybe we’ll end up at 200.”
Steaks are cooked on a flat-top grill (versus an open flame) and are transferred on carts to the tables. All entrees include a salad and side dish. “I call it compartmentalized service,” Abbadessa explains. “All the components are on board the cart and we assemble the plates tableside. It’s an impressive display.”
“Swarm” Service – “I want a lot of things to happen in the first five minutes,” Abbadessa says, “since there’s nothing worse than a customer not being acknowledged.” First, either Abbadessa or Kristo greets the table to "sell the appetizers," in almost all cases that means onion rings (see below). A hand then goes up (a Pear Tree tradition), signaling an order. Water glasses appear, then butter, the server appears to take a drink order, "and by the time all that happens," Abbadessa says, “the onion rings are usually on the table.”
Onion rings as served at The Pear Tree
Onion Rings "by Owner" – The recipe for the nearly-tempura-light batter is decades old. Having the owners provide the sales pitch is the perfect ice breaker (and conjures Kim Tucci schlepping “cheesy garlic bread” table side at Pasta House Co.). The perfect sharable starter is priced at $6 (9 rings) or $10 (18 rings).
Batter-fried Lobster Tails– It’s debatable which will be the bigger draw at Twisted Tree, the steaks or the batter-fried lobster. Anyone who’s dined in Osage Beach at The Potted Steer, The Blue Heron, or J. Bruner's is likely familiar with the latter. Same goes for The Pear Tree and AJ’s Eat & Drink (which will reopen in Macon this fall after a fire destroyed the restaurant last year). Purists will diss subjecting a succulent, sweet lobster tail to battering and deep-frying…until they taste one. (We'll settle a possible bet: yes, the lobster batter is the same coating as is on the onion rings.)
Salad Service – A salad bowl plus trimmings are delivered via cart to each table and served family-style, with warm croutons and a choice of dressings. According to Abbadessa, the all-you-can-eat affair is “the most complimented aspect” at The Pear Tree.
Wine List – Abbadessa predicts the wine list will cause a stir due to the pricing structure, which is 10 to 50% lower than in other local restaurants (and sometimes more). “Customers will love it and other restaurants likely won’t,” he said. For example, Rombauer Chardonnay (Carneros 2014) is $12 per glass for a standard pour (vs $15-18 elsewhere) and we noted a Jordan Cab (Alexander Valley 2012) for $70 (vs. $110-115 on other lists). Twisted Tree's 100-bottle list has the most familiar names as any in town (Chateau Montelena, Caymus, Cain, Duckhorn, Shafer, Qupe, Jordan, Silver Oak) at values well below the norm. We swear we saw a bottle at cost…which may have been a misprint—or knowing the shake-‘em-up restaurateurs involved—maybe not.
Twisted Tree Steakhouse
Opens July 14, 2016
Tue - Sat: 4:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Two of the projected best sellers at Twisted Tree: the 8-ounce filet and batter-fried lobster.