20 S. 4th Street, St. Louis, MO
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Carmine's Steakhouse

Review from SauceCafe.com

The tie-in between Lombardo's restaurants and the Drury Inn hotel properties now extend to three -- beginning with Lombardo's on 20th Street, across from Union Station, which once had been a David Slay operation. A Lombardo's on Natural Bridge Road, near Lambert Field, was next, and the latest opened last autumn on Fourth Street, with the hotel a lovely remodeling of the old Fur Exchange, and Carmine's moving into a new space to the south.
It's a steakhouse without displaying the testosterone level that Morton's or Smith & Wollensky or the Palm will reach, a steakhouse that may be just in time for the 21st century, one with Italian overtones, but light ones. More important, there was smooth, excellent service, imaginative preparation and an exciting dessert selection. The room is large, light and comfortable, with a bright wall painting that looks to be a Commedia dell'Arte troupe preparing for a Renaissance carnival. A large, circular bar is at the west side of the dining room.
Interestingly, the neighborhood boasts four restaurants of Italian heritage that may be the four oldest, single-family owned establishments in the city -- the Lombardos, who own Carmine's, date their restaurant history from 1934. Kemoll's goes back to 1927. Tony's and Al's were established before World War II. Lombardo's was on West Florissant Avenue for many years before moving downtown.
Because a hotel can't make unreasonable (or unseasonable) dress code demands on its guests, Carmine's is a very casual place, ranging from conventioneers or vacationers in shorts and T-shirts to business types in correct suits and ties.
I've been writing about St. Louis restaurants for nearly 30 years, and that's a situation that brings both pluses and minuses. Ann and I buy our own meals these days; the Post-Dispatch did it for my years there. However, every now and then something very nice occurs, and I appreciate it, though I hope a chef who was not too busy would do the same thing for an ordinary diner. Anyway, I ordered a baked potato to accompany a "pepperloin" steak, and I asked for it plain. I love butter and sour cream, but it would not be good to carry more weight than I already do, so I avoid them, and too many baked potatoes, as well. At home, I take a jar of spicy salsa out of the refrigerator and use it generously. Tastes great, and is less filling, all at the same time.
At Carmine's, someone erred on the side of generosity and my potato arrived filled with butter (not the server's fault; a manager intervened). When I reported the problem, the manager asked what I would like on the potato. I thought a moment, then asked if there was any salsa in the kitchen. He said he'd look. A fresh potato arrived soon, and a few minutes later, here was a dish of fresh, house-made salsa, as good as any I've ever had. Chef Jim Gordick was responsible, having taken a fresh tomato and some green pepper, roasted and diced them and mixed the result with some chopped chipotle pepper, the dusky red one with the smoky flavor, some garlic and a few other delicacies. Spectacular salsa. Now Carmine's can serve breakfast, with that salsa as the filling for an omelet or as the topping on a frittata.
Speaking of the pepperloin, a filet rolled in cracked pepper, then broiled to the perfect moment, it was as tender, rich and delicious as those I remember from the glory days when Hack Ulrich was in charge of the Tenderloin Room at the Chase-Park Plaza. A few mushrooms in a dark, winey sauce and some fresh green beans capped the plate for a superb meal.
In addition to the filet, we sampled the eight-point rack of New Zealand lamb that had been topped with a zinfandel demi-glaze. Cooked perfectly, it was delightful, and some risotto alongside suffered only from being too bland. The rice was proper arborio, properly cooked. The lamb, by the way, also is available as an appetizer serving of two chops. A strip steak was tasty and very good, if not great, and a large slab of salmon, broiled and topped with a light cucumber dill sauce, was an excellent dish.
The menu lists strips at 14, 16 and 20 ounces, filet mignons at eight and 10, a 24-ounce porterhouse, 20-ounce ribeye, veal chop, pork chops, the pepperloin and a filet with a gorgonzola wine sauce, along with the lamb. Scampi and a lobster tail are available in addition to the salmon, there are a couple of chicken entrees and a special or two.
Among the appetizers, we were tempted by a marinated portobello mushroom, broiled and served over risotto, but we tried the oysters Rockefeller, which arrived piping hot and with proper spinach, but also with cheese (extraneous and unnecessary) and without any of the licorice hint of anise, or even fennel, that usually adds to the flavor. But Carmine's also has frog legs on the appetizer menu, with either garlic butter or spicy barbecue sauce. We kept them simple and were rewarded -- big, tender, sweet legs, mild and delicious, handling the garlic in outstanding manner. We used to see frog legs a lot, but not so much in the last few years. Maybe they're down on Pestalozzi street auditioning for beer commercials.
The wine list is modest, but sufficient to provide good company with dinner, and enough wine by the glass selections for me to find a Steele pinot noir that was excellent with the steak.
And then there were desserts. Someone is thinking about them as well as creating them, and it may be Jim Gordick again. In the chill of winter, we sampled a splendid bread pudding that paired the sweet pudding with tart Granny Smith apples. In the heat of July, a goblet was laden with a thick mascarpone cheese mousse that looked like, and even tasted a little like a rich cheesecake. Then came a large dribble of excellent Balsamic vinegar, which traditionally goes with strawberries. And the ripe, delicious berries were next, soaking the vinegar and the cheese. A hit of whipped cream topped the whole thing and sent us away moaning happily.
Carmine's -- another asset to downtown.

Dining Out with J.G.—Carmine’s
Seasonal Veterans Score
by John Garganigo

The Lombardo family has been in the restaurant business since 1934. The original Lombardo restaurant was in the city’s north side and it was a favorite hangout of politicians and movers and shakers for years.

Some years ago, a second generation of Lombardo’s, with Tony Lombardo at the helm in the dining room and Mike Lombardo overseeing kitchen operations, took over the restaurant in the Drury Inn at Union Station. The business venture with Drury prospered, and now the two brothers have opened Carmine Steak House at 20 S. Fourth St., also at the site of a new Drury Inn. Carmine’s is named after Carmine Lombardo, the patriarch of the family.

A lot of money has been spent turning the old site into a spacious, upbeat restaurant. One highlight is the large mural that covers a 25-foot long wall. Painted by local artist, Pat Schuchard, it captures the festive mood of a Venetian carnival in all its splendor.

Appetizers are headed by a fabulous item: Portobello mushrooms , which have been marinated in balsamic vinegar with a hint of garlic and then charbroiled. The mushrooms are served over a creamy risotto that was first rate. Oysters Rockefeller
, a traditional dish of large bivalves topped with bechamel sauce and spinach, were cooked under the broiler to just the right consistency. The oysters were not rubbery, as is the case when they are overcooked. Although a good first started, I missed the touch of anise for that all-important nuance in flavor.

While I am not a particular fan of toasted ravioli, I do make an exception at any of the Lombardo’s restaurants. These are homemade, meat-filled ravioli, crispy on the outside, moist inside and served with a zesty tomato sauce. Very good.

In a steak house, the proof is in the quality of the meat served. Carmine selects marbled beef flown in specially from Chicago. The meat is then aged for at least 20 days, and this process naturally tenderizes it while imparting a slightly nutty flavor. The petit filet mignon was superb and cooked medium rare as ordered. The filet, served with steak butter really needed nothing else, but if you want to raise the dish to another level, have it with the gorgonzola and pink peppercorn sauce, a fine companion.

For the fish lover, a broiled halibut filet was one of the specials, and it was an excellent choice. It came with a sauce that was a smooth emulsion of butter, cream, tomato and fennel, with all the ingredients coming together in perfect harmony. A Caesar salad with aged Asiago cheese, an acceptable substitute for Parmigiano, benefited from crispy croutons and a dressing light on the anchovies. If you want more anchovies, just ask.

We finished our meal by sharing an order of bread pudding, buttery rich and topped with chantilly cream and fresh berries---yummy to say the least.

The Lombardo brothers have assembled a staff of sound professionals, both in the kitchen and out front. Sous chef, Jim Gordick, previously of J. Bucks, has been with them since the beginning. Carmine’s is off to a good start, and the Lombardo brothers appear to have another winner on their hands.

Carmine's Steakhouse
At Carmine's Steak House, sit where you can enjoy W. Patrick Schuchard's delightful mural of a carnival in Venice, a colorful work of art that fully captures all the joy and excitement of the Lombardo family's new signature dish, as it were. (read more)

Review from stltoday.com

Out to eat
Dining news and reviews for the gourmet on the go
The Lombardos branch out with a steak house, but they bring the ravioli along (read more)

By Patricia Corrigan
Post-Dispatch Restaurant Critic

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