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Oct 22, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Stovall’

Best New Restaurants: No. 2 – Vista Ramen

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

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{ from left, general manager Aaron Stovall, chef Chris Bork and sous chef Zach Siecinski }

 

A glimpse through the large windows at Vista Ramen reveals a slim restaurant filled with smartly dressed young people sipping sake and slurping ramen, bathed in the green glow of that iconic neon sign. This is where the cool kids eat.

The centerpiece is the open kitchen where co-owner and chef Chris Bork transmutes Vista’s chic style from the space to the plates. Bork interprets classic Asian dishes or finds inspiration entirely elsewhere, letting ingredients take the lead. While it’s easy to love something like sticky pork ribs glazed with crab caramel, it’s the attention paid to humble vegetables that sets Vista apart.

Bork is a standard bearer for seasonality, allowing vegetables to express themselves fully on the plate. Take, for example, his raw vegetable salad: Julienned Japanese turnips, carrots, radishes and kohlrabi are tossed with maple vinaigrette, lychee and house-made Chinese bacon and topped with popped sorghum.

Despite the complex, dynamic flavors, Bork’s methods don’t require expensive equipment or extravagant technique. “The treatment is very simple: Don’t fucking cook them to mush,” he said. “Being able to cook a specific vegetable to its right al dente is something that takes time and a lot of finesse. Blanching vegetables properly is an art that I wish more cooks took seriously.”

Vista’s veggie ramen best exemplifies this perfected technique. Vegetables of the moment (turnips, shiitakes, kohlrabi and so on) are individually blanched, then roasted on the flattop to order. Each vegetable retains its identity while swimming with tender alkaline noodles in a rich broth that coats every piece in meat-free umami glory.

After the last summer tomato disappears, it’s easy to give into seasonal despair in an endless parade of roasted root vegetables. Not at Vista. House-made agnolotti are filled with rich miso-pumpkin puree. Butternut squash finds its way into dessert as a delicate panna cotta sprinkled with buttery granola and topped with spheres of poached pear. For this kind of invention, we’ll gladly weather bitter temps and crowds of hipsters to indulge at Vista Ramen.

 

More about Vista Ramen

New and Notable: Vista Ramen

• Hit List: 4 new restaurants you must try this July

• Sneak Peek: Vista Ramen on Cherokee

• The Scoop: Chris Bork, Mud House owners to open Vista Ramen on Cherokee

 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Editor’s note: In the print issue, we misspelled Vista Ramen’s name. We have updated this post and the online issue to correct the error. 

Sneak Peek: Vista Ramen on Cherokee

Friday, May 27th, 2016

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Unlike many of us, the crew at Vista Ramen will be hard at work on Memorial Day. Doors open for dinner service at Cherokee Street’s newest restaurant on Monday, May 30. As The Scoop reported in August, executive chef Chris Bork (formerly of Blood & Sand) and The Mudhouse owners Jeremy and Casey Miller announced plans to turn the space at 2609 Cherokee St., into a 36-seat restaurant featuring ramen and Asian-inspired dishes.

The narrow space features a long open kitchen lined with a bar and a row of seats, while small tables line the front windows. The space’s design was heavily influenced by the 1930s, as was its name. The owners named the restaurant Vista after purchasing the large 1930s neon sign that glows at the entrance. Several local artisans had a hand in the restaurant’s design, including gold-leaf lettering by Phil Jarvis, handmade ramen bowls by Karabel and the kitchen bar hewn by woodworker Pete Voss.

Bork created a small menu featuring three ramen bowls: the pork-based Vista, the spicy shrimp and a vegetarian option with miso-roasted carrot and daikon and “coconut schmaltz.” Cherokee neighbor Midwest Pasta Co. makes the springy, thick ramen noodles. His small plates menu features dishes like a house-made Thai sausage, Korean fried chicken and a kimchi pancake.

General manager and beverage director Aaron Stovall helms the bar tucked into the corner of the restaurant. A small, curated selection of alcoholic beverage is meant to complement the food, including seven beers in bottles or cans, a handful of wines and a selection of spirits. Group service for sake and Japanese shochu will be offered. Stoval, who spent four years at The Mudhouse, has also curated a house tea program with help from Retrailer Tea.

Vista Ramen will be open from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 5 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Here’s a sneak peek of what to expect when you step inside Cherokee Street’s newest restaurant.

 

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

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