#98 Mussels & Fries at Brasserie by Niche

The lighting in Brasserie by Niche isn't conducive to great photos -- but believe us when we say the kitchen is highly conducive to good mussels.

It's hard to go wrong with Mussels Provençal -- that classic French bowl of mussels, steamed in their shells in a spirited white wine sauce.

But even if you're a fan of this dish, you may not be prepared for how gorgeously it's executed at Brasserie by Niche, arguably the best restaurant in the restaurant-rich Central West End. Here the mussels aren't just pleasingly plump; they're downright fat. And that's key to their ability to absorb the wonderfully fragrant broth they've been cooked in -- in Brasserie's incarnation, they're so deliciously juicy, they seem to be channeling fresh tarragon and warm garlicky liquid right into your mouth.

Wonderful, too, are the frites.

If you're a french fry enthusiast, you likely fall into one of two camps: You either like your fries McDonald's style, which is to say thin and fairly crispy, or you like them British "chips" style, which are fatter and meatier and more likely to have recently come from inside a potato skin. Brasserie's fries, served here in a tin cup, are McDonald's version all the way -- just what we find ourselves craving at least twice a day.

With a glass of white and a green salad, this really might be one of the most perfect meals anywhere.

Beginning last year, RFT restaurant critic Ian Froeb counted down -- in no particular order -- 100 of his favorite dishes in St. Louis. Now Gut Check has taken up where he left off. Check back frequently as we detail our 100 favorites, and don't hesitate to send us yours, too, either via the comments thread or at tips@riverfronttimes.com.


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