On my third night in St. Louis I opted for Mosaic, a local favorite that markets itself as a tapas and fusion restaurant. The original downtown location is across the street from the conference rooms of the Millennium St. Louis hotel, site of the AEJMC annual meeting, so the location was definitely a plus after a long day of conference activity.
Like most of my other dining choices during AEJMC, I’d identified Mosaic as a possibility for dinner because of its location and favorable local reputation.
I have mixed feelings about Mosaic. Of my three dinners at more upscale restaurants and the late lunch at Grapevine Grill (in Ste. Genevieve), Mosiac has a definite fourth place. My opinion may have been strongly influenced by the amazing dinner I had at Niche the previous night. But I’d be willing to say that in a head-to-head comparison at any time, I’d still rank Mosaic in a distant fourth, relative to Niche, Monarch, and the Grapevine Grill.
The food at Mosaic is good, above-average perhaps (certainly way above-average compared to chains like TGIFridays or Hoolihans)—but Mosaic is not “great,” by my (admittedly) high standards.
Mosaic had turned up on some lists as being a farm-to-table type of restaurant, so I asked the server what was “locally grown.” She wasn’t very sure and didn’t seem particularly familiar with the source of any of the ingredients, other than the Shitake mushrooms in the mushroom tart.
I started with a spring vegetable salad, featuring heirloom tomatoes, whipped fennel pollen chevre with citrus vinaigrette for dressing.
My dinner companion and I shared the Shitake mushroom tart. It was very, very tasty, although a different type of “tart”than we expected—and somewhat heavier, as in more substantial. The “tart” (really a flaky bread, more croissant than what I consider a tart) featured lavender-scented goat cheese (amazingly good!), more heirloom tomatoes, and apple saba.
We also tried the Tuscan broccoli salad, but it was disappointing. The “greens” were yellow and seemingly heat-exhausted. The taste was OK, overall, but definitely not up to the level of my garden salad and, especially, the Shitake mushroom tart.
Although I was pretty stuffed at this point, I decided dessert was in order and opted to try the Dulce de Leche, which definitely helped redeem the situation at that point. It’s very, very rich and very good. Dulce de Leche is caramel gelato inside a waffle cone, infused apples, basil creme, topped off with caramel brittle.
To some extent, the service might have contributed to our less-than-positive overall evaluation. We arrived just after 5 p.m., before the heavy afterwork/dinner crowd and the service was fine at that point. As the restaurant began to fill, however, the service was slower and slower. It took at least 30 minutes to order and receive our desserts. At that point, I was in a hurry because I needed to review my notes in preparation for an early-morning research session in which I was the discussant. So the delay was especially annoying.
Another disappointment was the price. My share of the meal plus a gratuity at Mosaic was nearly the same as for the meal I’d enjoyed the night before at Niche. And the meal at Niche is in my top 2 dining experiences—ever.
All in all, I had an enjoyable evening at Mosaic, but I don’t believe the local raves are justified. My guess is that 5-7 years ago, Mosaic offered a really, really special dining experience in downtown St. Louis. Then, to capitalize on his success, the chef and founder Claus Schmitz began to expand into other locations around St. Louis and the restaurant became a business, not a culinary vision.
Mosaic wouldn’t be the first time that has happened.