Patience Pays Out Delicious Rewards at Twisted Tree

By Amy De La Hunt
In Food

As a parent, I’m always either having patience or trying to instill patience or wishing I had more patience. Celebrating patience is a rare occurrence. But I left Twisted Tree singing its praises in more ways than one.

Photo by Amy De La Hunt

Photo by Amy De La Hunt

Take the aging of the strip steaks and ribeyes: It’s around 130 days for strips and ribeyes. Yes, more than four months. Imagine that someone—in this case, Mike Abbadessa, one of the restaurateurs behind the concept—spent more than four months thinking in detail about your meal. Where it was sourced, and in what season. Whether to wet- or dry-age it, or both. When to turn it over to the chefs.

But four months is a drop in the bucket when the two families that co-founded the joint have a combined 100-plus years of running restaurants. Yes, more than a century between the Abbadessas (who owned the Pear Tree restaurant in Bevier, Mo., on which Twisted Tree is based) and the Sybergs (who own Syberg’s and Helen Fitzgeralds).

Even the renovated 10,000-foot, 200-seat space has its share of history, like the reclaimed wood from an 1860s-era church, or the giant 905 Liquor Store sign from North St. Louis.

On the other hand, things get speedy at just the right times. Service is already precise and carefully choreographed, impressive in such a new venue—with a big part of the credit going toward another longtime restaurateur who’s not even part of that 100-year total, Jimmy Kristo (whose café Jimmy’s on the Park closed earlier in 2016 after a 21-year run).

Living out a legacy
Twisted Tree manages to kindle nostalgia but not rely on it to carry the entire customer experience. It plays up the dishes some diners may remember from other times and places, like the onion rings that appear on almost every table as if by magic. They’re an old recipe, using a light batter and generous dips in the fryer to yield extra-crispy-on-the-outside results. The same batter on the lobster tail makes the dish a study in contrasts, melt-in-your-mouth lobster with the satisfying crunch of a light fried coating.

Photo by Amy De La Hunt

Photo by Amy De La Hunt

Salads have a backstory too. They’re served family-style, with the lettuce-spinach blend in a huge bowl, the feta and toasted croutons on a separate plate, warm slices of bread in little paper bags and three dressings in a serving caddy the likes of which your grandmother would immediately appreciate. The traditional way to dress the salad, one member of our service team informed us, is to mix the vinaigrette (formerly a staple of the Pear Tree) and the Madam French. The novelty of it all enticed my teenager to forget himself and actually eat a few leafy bites.

He’d have been happier with the huge wedge of wedding cake a la mode for dessert, if only he’d had room for it. We watched plenty of them go by—and amazingly, most of the plates went away empty. So we’re guessing it’s that good, and we’re planning to save room next time. All we could manage was the house-made vanilla ice cream draped in sweet chocolate sauce.

Most famous of all is the combo meal of steak and batter-dipped lobster, which we’ve already established is delicious. But it’s worth saying again. We chose the roasted aged prime rib as the beef option (over the filet mignon) and found ourselves dreamily savoring its tenderness and flavor.

But the young steak-lover in our group had some questions for the leader of our service team—who fielded them graciously and (no surprise) with patience. Eventually his choice was a rare Kansas City strip steak, which turned out to be a very generous portion of around 13 ounces of meat and maybe 1 ounce of fat. But as lean as it seemed, it had rich flavor and plenty of juices, even before the aus jus was poured over it tableside.

Putting on a show
And that brings us to one of the most fun parts of the meal: watching the custom-made serving carts roll out to deliver the dishes. They’re a little like mini hot dog carts, with a raised end housing a flame that flickers blue through a cutout of the tree logo. Two servers make quick work of plating the dishes while you watch, which is good theater but can also lead to minor confusion over sides and sauces.

The servers are well prepared for any question, from what gives the mac ‘n cheese its tangy flavor (gruyere, one of the four cheeses in the dish) to how the glass-sided wine cellar works. Speaking of wine, there are 100 bottles on the full list but only a couple on the regular menu, which can lead to confusion if the server doesn’t offer the longer list and the customer doesn’t see the written note. However, given the bargain prices they’re charging for wines, it’s well worth persisting on the list.

One reason for the high prices for other dishes—and let’s be clear, they are ambitious for the St. Louis metro area, and Sunset Hills in particular—is the level of staffing needed to keep the ship running tightly. But it’s relaxing to be waited on so well, especially in a world that requires patience at nearly every other turn.

Inside dish
Tips for a top-notch experience at Twisted Tree

Top dish: There’s good reason the filet mignon and batter-dipped lobster tail combo is the signature dish. It’s that good.

Popular pour: The satisfying burn of a Buffalo Pal (Kentucky bourbon, Campari, Cointreau and flamed orange) is the right way to start a meal this rich.

Best place to perch: The booths at the back of the dining room are up and out of the way of the hard-working servers.

Insider tip: Go with the crowd. Order the onion rings. If you don’t, you’ll kick yourself every time another plate of them goes past. Which will happen *a lot*.

Where to go Twisted Tree
10701 Watson Road
314.394.3366
Entrees $19-$55
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 4:30-10pm

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