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Apr 28, 2015
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First Look: 99 Hops House

Thursday, April 9th, 2015



There’s no mistaking the theme at 99 Hops House inside Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights. The beer-centric sports bar, which officially opened April 6, offers around 100 different brews, including prominently featured local craft options. O’Fallon Brewing created the signature house brew, the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This amber-colored, easy drinking glass of suds pairs with many menu items and drinks well on its own.

Not only is the list long, but many of the beers also feature in dishes themselves. Beers from Schlafly, Urban Chestnut, 4 Hands and O’Fallon  join other microbrews from across the country in the menu’s many sauces and condiments.

The menu offers generous portions of barbecue classics, as well as suggested beer pairings for each appetizer, soup, sandwich and entree. The Loaded Burger comes on a roll and is indeed loaded up with sauteed onions, mushrooms and a Hollywood Ale aioli. With a nod to St. Louis barbecue, 99 Hops House boasts a pork steak weighing in at least one pound and comes with your choice of crispy waffle, seasoned or sweet potatoes fries and a creamy coleslaw spiked with Woodchuck Cider.

Here’s a look at what else you’ll find at Hollywood Casino’s newest eatery:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Vincent Van Doughnut in Clayton

Monday, March 16th, 2015




Doughnut shop-on-wheels Vincent Van Doughnut opened doors at its Clayton storefront at 40 N. Central Ave., Saturday, March 14. Co-owner Vincent Marsden said the new shop will carry a dozen rotating options each day, including customer favorites like the chocolate-salted caramel, cheesecake cookie crumble and maple bacon doughnuts, as well as new offerings like a maple-bacon cinnamon roll.

Keep an eye out for specials like Doughzle Holes‚ doughnut dough prepared like pretzels and finished with crunchy salt. Dip these pop-able hybrids in that day’s sauce, like a Schlafly black lager-caramel option. Marsden said springtime seasonal doughnuts will include flavors like lemon-lavender, peaches and cream, and Biscoff-Bismarck doughnuts, too.

The small shop welcomes customers with warm wooden floors, exposed brick walls and the sweet smell of fresh fried pastry. Seating is limited with just three two-tops and a small three-seat bar, as well as a small standing bar. Nosh on your choice of the day’s dozen options over a cup of Community Coffee, milk, soda or juice. Vincent Van Doughnut is open Tuesday to Sunday from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m.



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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Lucky Buddha

Thursday, March 12th, 2015



The former home of Jefferson Avenue Bistro is seeing new life as Lucky Buddha, which opened doors in late February. Since The Scoop reported its pending opening in January, the Asian restaurant at 3701 Jefferson Ave., underwent a name change, switching from a hungry Buddha to a lucky one.

Chef René Cruz’s menu of Asian-inspired comfort food draws from Japanese, Thai, Korean and Chinese cuisines, to name a few. The lineup features several vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, and carnivorous diners certainly won’t go wanting, either. A generous list of appetizers includes three spring roll options, gyoza, spicy fried chicken wings and a selection yakitori skewers. Look for three house-made dipping sauces, like a soy packing deep umami flavor, thick peanut sauce with hidden heat and a light tamari-mint sauce.

Five fresh salads offer variety in texture, temperature and crunch with ingredients like green papaya, mung beans, pressed tofu, radish, shiso leaf, cabbage, cashews, peanuts and deceptively hot chile threads.

Entrees are divided between large bahn mi sandwiches, pillowy steam buns and large noodle bowls. All are customizable; choose from fillings like sake-braised shitake mushrooms, chicken coated in house-made kimchi, beef tendon, char sui pork or pressed tofu. Noodle bowls feature rice noodles, mung bean noodles or udon with traditional pho or vegan broth.

Asian-inspired desserts include five sorbets with flaky texture akin to Italian ice in flavors like lychee, ginger-lime and chile mango. A creme brulee holds flavors of five-spice powder, while a lemon grass and basil seed cake is served with lemon grass ice cream.

The 80-seat dining room features vibrant blue walls decorated with Dragon Ball Z and other anime and film decals. Another 20 seats are available on a front patio, but it’s the large back patio that general manager and bar manager Naomi Roquet said will be the real outdoor draw when it’s ready in a few days. Nearly 80 seats and a separate bar will let guests enjoy dining al fresco while playing cornhole and washers.

While guests wait for their chance to toss a few washers, they can sip one of five house cocktails, a carafe of sake, Japanese whiskey, soju or shochu. If Asian spirits aren’t up your alley, opt for one of six local beers on draft or a bottle of the conveniently named Chinese lager, Lucky Buddha, as well 11 other beer options. Wine by the glass is also available.

Lucky Buddha is open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m., Friday from 5 to 11 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Chi Sushi in the Central West End

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015



Things have been quiet for the last eight months at Chi Sushi & Sake in the Central West End. During that time, owner Jay Yoon sold the sushi lounge at 4 N. Euclid Ave., to his brother, Jae Hoon Yoon. Now, the restaurant has re-opened with an abbreviated name, Chi Sushi, and an expanded menu.

While Chi Sushi & Sake leaned toward the lounge scene, Chi Sushi posits itself as a full restaurant. Chef Whitney Yoon, wife of Jae Hoon Yoon, worked at Nippon Tei in Ballwin for 15 years before bringing her skills to the Central West End eatery.

The menu, previously a slate of sashimi, nigiri, maki and specialty rolls, now includes hot and cold appetizers and entrees. You’ll find a number of starters and small plates like tako yaki (crispy octopus balls) and kaki furai (fried oysters). Larger plates such as chicken teriyaki, grilled salmon and tofu-vegetable tempura are served in a bento box with miso soup, a house salad and rice.

The sushi bar has expanded its offerings as well. Look for more exotic fish and seafood, from giant clams to uni. More rolls have been added, including a number that feature crispy tempura thanks to the addition of a fryer in the kitchen.

Here’s a first look at the new Chi Sushi:


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Zydeco Blues

Friday, December 5th, 2014

If you’ve been gasping for New Orleans cuisine in West County, drink deep at the new oasis at 1090 Old Des Peres Road in Des Peres. Zydeco Blues, which tapped former 1111 Mississippi executive chef Wade Waller and sous chef Ian Martin to skipper its kitchen, opened the day before Thanksgiving, Nov. 26, boasting a menu rife with New Orleans and Cajun standbys.

Savory, hush puppy-like beignets served with honey butter welcome guests to their tables and make for fine finger food while perusing the selection of Big Easy standards like etouffee, po’boys, red beans and rice, jambalaya and others. Soups, salads and whimsical starters, like the Asian-inspired crawfish potstickers, also make an appearance. Six house-made desserts are available, including sweet beignets with raspberry dipping sauce and creme brulee laid over with bananas Foster.

At the bar, look for eight draft beers (including several local offering), 14 wines by the glass and more by the bottle, and a selection of NOLA beverages, including bottled Abita beer and house-made hurricanes. All of it’s served behind a gargantuan reclaimed wooden bar from the late 19th century, the top newly resurfaced with gleaming copper.

At the moment, much of the decor is in progress while owner Ron Gordon select artwork for the walls, but expect more Big Easy than Mardi Gras, Gordon said. He is opting for an aesthetic that honors New Orleans’ musical roots – indeed, on Friday and Saturday evenings the dining room will host live blues, rock and other music (presumably zydeco, at least once).

Zydeco Blues is open Monday through Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m.


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-photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Grapeseed

Monday, September 22nd, 2014

In February, The Scoop reported that chef Ben Anderson would open a restaurant at 5400 Nottingham Ave., in the South Hampton neighborhood. After months of renovation, the wait is over. Grapeseed quietly opened Friday, Sept. 19.

The menu is divided into snacks, small plates, sandwiches and entrees. The restaurant sources from numerous local purveyors, including meat from Rain Crow Ranch and Todd Geisert Farms, produce from Double Star Farms and breads from Companion and La Bonne Bouche.

Wine figures heavily in the beverage program. Patrons will find nearly 50 wines – 16 by the glass – on the menu. Craft beer enthusiasts can select from six local brews on tap; another 16 are available in bottled format. The cocktail menu holds nine drinks, including Todd’s Famous Sangria, created by bar manager Todd Brutcher. Brutcher keeps his sangria seasonal; the current offering is bursting with apple flavors, while butternut squash will make an appearance in the weeks ahead.

The remodeled interior features woodwork by local green-builder Mwanzi. The majority of the wood used for tables, banquettes and accent pieces, hails from the restaurant’s own space, including stairs repurposed into tabletops. Grapeseed also offers patio seating both near the front entrance and on a secluded back patio. Open Tuesday through Sunday, Grapeseed currently offers dinner; lunch service is anticipated in the near future.


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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Butchery

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Carnivores, prepare your grills and break out your roasting pans. Full-service butcher shop and food emporium Butchery has opened its doors. In June, Truffles announced it would add the meat market next door to the restaurant at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Since quietly unlocking doors in late August, Butchery has seen a steady flow of patrons hungry for everything from house-made sausages to premium cuts of beef.

Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack directs operations at Butchery, while meat geek Andrew Jennrich helms the chopping block. Together, they’ve created a unique shop. “Few people in St. Louis are dealing with whole animals,” said Jennrich, noting that Butchery can provide hard-to-find cuts like tomahawk steaks and secreto, a little-know piece near the pork belly, all typically not available at other butcher shops.

While beef, pork, lamb and chicken are sourced from highly regarded local and regional farms, Butchery also makes numerous meat products in-house. It boasts a state-of-the-art aging room for curing charcuterie and offers prepared and ready-to-cook items like sausages, beef patties and pork potpies. Butchery even renders animal fat and sells it in 8-ounce containers. “We’re selling flavor,” Benack said. The Butchery will even marinate your cut for free using the Cryovac machine at Truffles to vacuum-seal it.

Apart from all the meaty goodness, patrons will find local cheeses, myriad house-made condiments, grab-and-go sides, a sandwich menu, a selection of boutique pantry perks and wines that hail from Truffles’ award-winning wine list.

The shop is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Here’s a look at what’s happening at Butchery:


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-photos by Meera Nagarajan

First Look: Ices Plain & Fancy

Friday, August 8th, 2014

The late Victorians – Agnes B. Marshall among them – jived so resolutely with the myth of eternal return that they doubtless would be proud to see some of their culinary techniques at work today at Ices Plain & Fancy, one of newest, and zaniest, storefronts for a sweet tooth at 2256 S. 39th St.

Marshall, who pioneered a series of dessert-making techniques in 19th-century London before her premature demise, has been pulled from obscurity by college chums Troika Brodsky (communications director at Schlafly), Darla Crask, Max Crask (former executive chef at Tripel) and Matthew Deutschmann, who opened the shop together in late July.

At first glance, the corner ice cream shop in the Shaw neighborhood is a modest little boutique, with mosaic tile floors and a large portrait of Marshall hanging on the wall, along with a few blown-up pages selected from her oeuvre of culinary books. Ices Plain & Fancy is a title of Marshall’s, borrowed for the name of the shop. All of it belies the positively weird science going on inside the kitchen.

Exhibit A: the 5-foot industrial liquid nitrogen tanks standing behind the glass-walled ice cream bar. At less than 321 degrees below zero, the dangerously cold liquid nitrogen is piped through a nozzle and poured directly into Nitro Ices, ice cream made to order in stainless stand mixers while you watch from behind the glass. The nitrogen freezes the cream rapidly enough to prevent the formation of ice crystals, resulting in an ultra-smooth, silky texture. (And don’t be alarmed – the nitrogen evaporates harmlessly when mixed with the cream.)

Though Ices hasn’t even thrown a grand opening celebration, the magic is spreading. Lines are starting to accumulate around the corner, and the staff already goes through a tank of nitrogen a day.

The Nitro Ices are offered in around seven rotating flavors, each of which can be made vegan with soy ingredients. They can be served in a cup, cake cone or a house-made waffle cone. Also on the menu is vanilla-flavored soft serve ice cream and Sump Pump, soft serve infused with “an obscene amount” of Sump Coffee’s Ethiopian roast, according to Crask. A special flavor of Nitro Ice and sorbet are rotated every couple days, and behind the counter, a refrigerator holds a generous selection of artisan sodas, including Virgil’s Root Beer, Cheerwine, Fitz’s and more.

Ever the experimenters, the owners are in the process of acquiring a liquor license for making booze-infused ice cream. And while ice cream is the only offering at the moment, the prospect of other food appearing on the menu isn’t far off the horizon, Brodsky said. Before they can take on that challenge, the madcap ice cream quartet has their hands full performing their peculiar brand of science theater, like some scene from those turn-of-the-century fairs in London, or St. Louis, their encircled clientele observing in wide-eyed wonder.


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 -photos by Michelle Volansky

First Look: Bocci Wine Bar

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Former Italian restaurant Bocci at 16 N. Central Ave., in Clayton recently underwent a space and menu renovation to become Bocci Wine Bar. As The Scoop reported in April, Bocci Wine Bar’s new focus is wine and small plate, wine-friendly fare.

Among the changes at the reinvented spot, Bocci Wine Bar is now one of a handful of St. Louis restaurants to offer wine on tap from stainless steel barrels. “White wine is stored in its own compartment kept at 40 degrees and red wines at 54 degrees,” said owner Frank Schmitz, who also owns Barcelona Tapas and Coastal Bistro in Clayton. Two-ounce wine flights are also available for those interested in tasting and comparing a larger selection.

Executive chef Neil Alkobri’s menu is organized simply by farm, land and sea and is loosely based on the flavors of the Mediterranean. The regular menu is also accompanied by wine and food from a different region of the world each month. May recently featured Argentina; signature wines from the region were paired with ceviche, quinoa cakes, beef empanadas and churrasco. June focuses on French wine and cuisine.

While menu items feature locally sourced ingredients, it doesn’t get much more local than Thursday evenings, when diners can bring items purchased at the Clayton Farmers Market and hand them over to Alkobri, who will return a market-inspired dish to the table. A recent visit yielded a just-picked vegetable flatbread with zucchini, summer squash, asparagus and radishes, while another diner feasted on Naked Bacon-wrapped scallops.

Some elements remain untouched, like Bocci’s fabulous bi-fold window wall on Central Avenue that opens to seamlessly blend the restaurant and patio areas. It’s an ideal spot for a glass of wine on a beautiful day.

The restaurant is open Tuesday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. and Saturdays from 5 to 10 p.m. Here’s a look at what to expect at the new Bocci Wine Bar:


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First Look: Death in the Afternoon

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Like the expat loungers of Hemingway’s Pamplona, the midday clientele at Death in the Afternoon, located at the corner of Citygarden at 808 Chestnut St., might well start losing themselves in carefree lunch rendezvous. Co-owners Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil, who also own members-only downtown spot Blood & Sand, have been hard at work, and devotees have noticed: Though its official opening took place today, June 9, Death in the Afternoon was serving lunch to crowds (many of them Blood & Sand members), as early as last Thursday, June 5. Yet unlike its exclusive older sibling, Death in the Afternoon is open to the public Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Executive chef Nick Martinkovic, who joined Blood & Sand in January, is putting the finishing touches on the menu of soups, sandwiches and salads with Japanese and Mediterranean flair. Some entrees, like pork ramen and falafel, are still being tweaked in the kitchen but will roll out in the first month.

The somewhat inchoate bar program is still being set up, too, though 10 draft beers and six wines by the glass are expected to be available this week. Brewers Mike Sinclair and Chris Gaglio will operate Upper 90 Brewing Company in the restaurant’s basement prep area, a separate venture that will brew small batches for Death in the Afternoon. No cocktail menu is planned, though spirits are available behind the bar.

Blood & Sand members may still be surprised at Death in the Afternoon’s adjusted concept – sleek, uncloistered, nonexclusive and, for now, staunchly devoted to lunch (though brunch service is on the horizon). The name, borrowed from an early title of Hemingway’s and, later, a cocktail he invented, actually is inspired by the vistas from the dining room floor. Frager said Citygarden’s foliage, on full display through the floor-to-ceiling glass, reminded him of the gardens at Papa H’s Key West, Florida, estate – not to mention the duo’s first venture was named for a cocktail, too.

Here’s a first look at what you’ll find downtown at Death in the Afternoon:


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-photos by Garrett Faulkner

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