Posted On: 08/01/2017
What happens when two sons from successful restaurateur families – one from the city, the other from the country – collaborate to open a steakhouse?
With six eponymous restaurants, plus Helen Fitzgerald’s, the Syberg name is as familiar to St. Louisans as Ted Drewes and Budweiser. Before a 2012 fire destroyed it, the Abbadessas’ The Pear Tree Restaurant in Bevier drew diners from well beyond its isolated location between Columbia and Kirksville. It’s no wonder, then, that Kirk Syberg and Mike Abbadessa hit it off well enough to want to open a steakhouse when the time was right.
The time came just more than a year ago when the pair opened a joint venture along an original stretch of Route 66 at the corner of Watson Road and Lindbergh Boulevard in Sunset Hills. The unassuming, 9,100-square-foot space next to a Holiday Inn is now Twisted Tree Steakhouse – a name honoring both the old Pear Tree and the partnership between the two families, like interwoven trees.
Calling Twisted Tree a throwback to bygone steakhouses like Jack’s Gourmet Restaurant in Columbia, The Potted Steer in Osage Beach or Golden Ox Restaurant & Lounge in Kansas City isn’t quite accurate. It’s a reincarnation, of sorts – as if remnants of The Pear Tree were brushed off for a new home. Like the signature onion rings: a tower of sweet onions dipped in a batter so light and crispy I thought of tempura. The recipe dates back to the old restaurant’s founding in 1986 (don’t mess with success). Or the crab Rangoon appetizer, which was also transferred from The Pear Tree. Filled with chunks of luscious crabmeat and served with a plum sweet and sour and a horseradish Dijonnaise – it’s what I wish the Chinese takeout joint down the street delivered (or not – since I’d be tempted to order it every night).
Twisted Tree’s salad of fresh, crisp greens plus trimmings is served family-style in a chilled bowl delivered to the table by cart, which I thought was about as much fun as could be derived from salad. But when I mixed the French and sweet onion vinaigrette dressings (highly suggested by our server), tossed in a few warm garlic croutons and sprinkled on some feta cheese, vegetable duty faded to desire. The accompanying warm, crusty bread and whipped butter contributed to my unexpected salad-eating frenzy.
All of Twisted Tree’s beef is prime Black Angus from Creekstone Farms in Kansas. The restaurant more than triples the typical 30 to 45 day aging time for steaks – exact numbers are posted on several chalkboards. On one visit, the 18-ounce, 1˝ inch-thick strip my table shared had aged 145 days, or nearly five months. I didn’t know what to expect from such a startling age. Would the big steak be shriveled to the size of a hockey puck? Would there be too much funk? What we ate was a deeply crimson piece of meat with beautifully even char from a flattop grill, a dense texture and intense beefiness. The extended dry-wet aging process used to control all that enzyme-on-meat action added a markedly musky, mushroomy note without losing juiciness.
The signature steak and batter-dipped lobster tail comes with your choice of roasted prime rib or filet mignon paired with a fresh 6-ounce deep-fried lobster tail encased in the same crisp, golden jacket as those mandatory onion rings. Filet mignon is the khaki pants of steaks, but 70-day aging made it even more buttery and yielding (without going mushy) and added a mellow nutty flavor to the typically boring cut. Prime rib is naturally more flavorful due to its higher fat content and roasting, and also conveyed distinct earthy notes from aging. Both may be ordered as individual entrees as well.
Just because steaks are in the name doesn’t mean other Twisted Tree entrees should be ignored. The house-made tagliatelle special, tossed with heirloom squash and corn in a cauliflower cream sauce, appointed with five perfectly seared scallops, was the surprise dish during one visit. Someone at your table should order whatever fresh fish is featured. The wood-fired striped bass was another standout special, delicately crispy from aromatic bread crumbs, served on a summery bed of local black kale, beets, pine nuts and cherry tomatoes. Desserts are all made in-house, including ice cream and almond-tinged white wedding cake. A local berry tart with vanilla ice cream during one visit provided bright, ringing summer flavors.
Rather than dark paneling and red banquettes, the main dining room is outfitted with reclaimed wood and raised booths. Multiple old St. Louis alcohol signs and an impressive beer can display convey more Americana than clubby steakhouse. One of our table’s wags said it was like Cracker Barrel meets your dad’s man cave, but service is at a high level – attentive without being intrusive.
Despite my superb meals at Twisted Tree, my favorite aspect of each visit was the most whimsical: The trundling wheeled carts equipped with hot plates to finish off steaks tableside. Like the old-fashioned melt-in-your-mouth dinner mints served with the check, this is neither hipster kitsch nor an indulgent grasping back to the good old days. A pleasant surprise for diners, it’s done without a hint of nostalgia.
AT A GLANCE
Twisted Tree Steakhouse
10701 Watson Road, Sunset Hills, 314.394.3366, twisted
Don’t Miss Dishes
Onion rings, surf and turf, any featured fish
Homespun Americana steakhouse minus the clubby environs
$19 to $55
Tue. to Sat. – 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
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