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Dec 17, 2017
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘The Crossing’

Trendwatch: What’s trending now in the STL dining scene (Part 1)

Friday, August 5th, 2016

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1. A Better Swiss Cheese
You may not recognize the name, but you’ve probably seen raclette (a funky, nutty Swiss-French cow’s milk cheese that melts like a dream) on a BuzzFeed list or foodie Instagram account. You don’t have to go to Raclette NYC (Yes, a whole restaurant is named for the cheese.) to get it. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. has topped winter veggies with the stuff on seasonal menus since it opened in The Grove. Larder & Cupboard has held fondue and raclette classes, and chef-owner Jim Fiala currently melts this gooey goodness over beef tenderloin at The Crossing. Chef-owner Bill Cawthon purchases whole wheels of the stuff and broils until molten, then scrapes it to order over a basket of fries at Frankly Sausages food truck.

2. Fit to Be Fried
It’s never too early for Chinese food – or completely bastardized, completely delicious American-Asian fusion. Places like The Rice House start mornings off with breakfast fried rice (fried rice with the addition of eggs and a breakfast meat). Half & Half offers a spicy version with scrambled eggs, sausage, jalapeno and grilled onion, while Cleveland-Heath goes with green onion, bacon, peas and sesame seeds topped with eggs any style.

 

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3. Get Lit
Neon isn’t just for dive bars anymore. The beer sign classic has a fancy new job as a fun design element lighting up a number of restaurants around town. It’s the red pulsing heart behind the bar at Olive & Oak. See neon inside Friendship Brewing Co. telling guests where to eat with bright pink letters. Vista Ramen took its name from the massive vintage sign that now glows green in its small Cherokee space.

4. Spotlight on Sambal
First there was Sriracha, then pungent gochujang. Now sambal is heating up plates around town. Planter’s House uses the spicy Southeast Asian chile paste to add heat to pickled eggs, as well as the cornbread crumbs scattered atop its summer salad. Seafood got sauced with the condiment at Hiro Asian Kitchen, where it graced the grilled whole squid, and at Guerrilla Street Food, where it livened up a recent pan-roasted salmon special. The Crossing drops the temp a few degrees, mixing sambal into a cooling aioli for its Maryland blue crabcake sandwich, and a house-made version snuck in with strawberries atop ricotta and fresh snap peas at a recent Sardella pop-up.

 

Ready for more? Click here for Part 2 of Trendwatch.  

What I Do: Douglas Denney of The Crossing

Tuesday, November 4th, 2014

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“Anyone can wait on one table,” said Douglas Denney, 47, a veteran server at The Crossing. “Eight, nine, 10 tables? That’s when it gets difficult.” Here, the native of Edinburgh, Scotland dishes out what he’s learned from more than 30 years spent walking restaurant floors – and why he really hopes you won’t order hot tea.

What was your first restaurant job?
For a summer job, I was a dishwasher – hand-washing, by the way. I went back the second year and was basically what they’d call the barista nowadays. Back then it was “the coffee maker.”

How did you get a job at The Crossing?
I walked in with my resume. I got lucky. It’s not easy to get in here.

What’s the staff turnover rate?
It’s nonexistent.

What type of personality makes for a good server?
Anyone can be a food delivery man. To be a good waiter, you have to have that sense of hospitality. I think some of it’s trainable, but I don’t think it all is.

Who is your favorite type of customer?
My regulars. When you look on the reservation book at night and see “Mrs. Smith requests Douglas,” it’s kind of flattering. When someone takes the time to request a particular waiter, you know you must be doing something right.

Is there a drink order you wince at?
Hot tea! Most restaurants are never set up to serve it because you don’t sell that much of it. You’ve got to get the teapot, warm it up, get the cup ready, lemons, honey or sweetener or whatever it is. So you got all these things you gotta bring in. Inevitably, someone else at the table says, “Oh, that does sound good. I think I’ll have a hot tea, too!” Hot tea – that’s the scourge for all waiters. I drink hot tea at home all the time. I’m Scottish.

Does your Scottish accent benefit you as a server?
It probably makes it easier walking up to people you don’t know if you have an accent because they want to listen to you.

What dining habit really irritates you?
Cell phones. Don’t use your cell phone in a restaurant. When you go out to dinner, interact with the people you’re having dinner with.

How do you feel about reservation no-shows?
If you’re not going to make it, just call and let us know. That way we can open the table for someone else.

Does it bother you when people show up just before the kitchen is closing?
The kitchen’s not closed yet, so it’s no big deal. If our kitchen closes at 10 o’clock and you show up at 10:30 and we’ve still got people eating and we’re still cooking in the kitchen, we’ll feed you. That’s hospitality. That’s what we do.

What should a customer do when they’ve had a poor dining experience?
Tell your waiter if there’s something wrong. If they know what they’re doing, they’ll handle it correctly, seamlessly.

What about when the server is part of the bad experience?
I’ve failed at a table. I had a table that did a grand tasting menu, and I forgot to fire the dessert. I got so overtaken by tables that it just didn’t happen. They paid their bill and called back the next day. We all make mistakes. What we try to do when we make mistakes is fix it. Did I fix that? No. But it’ll never happen again.

What’s the hardest part about keeping customers happy?
I don’t think it’s hard when you enjoy doing what you do. The actual dealing with the guest is not hard. It’s a lot harder physically, especially when you get older, than most people would think. Ten to 12 hours on your feet – that’s the tough part of the job.

What’s your post-shift routine?
A small glass of wine or a beer and go home. Compare that to 20 years ago … I’m too old for that.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

 

The Scoop: Brad Watts takes the chef’s toque (again) at The Crossing

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

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Brad Watts has worn the white toque in several places during his 12 years in Jim Fiala’s constellation of restaurants, including Clayton’s The Crossing and the now-defunct Liluma in the Central West End. On May 31, Watts resumed his erstwhile role of executive chef at The Crossing, located at 7823 Forsyth Road, replacing Mike Craig.

“(Watts is) very creative, he’s a good manager, (and) he takes great care of my staff … he’s just a superstar,” said Fiala, who also owns Maplewood’s Acero. “He’s been a loyal team player, and I’m delighted to have him running our busy kitchen at The Crossing.”

Beginning in 2003, Watts was executive chef by turns at The Crossing, Acero and Liluma, rotating frequently to the position where he was needed most. When Liluma closed in late 2012, Fiala, seeking to keep the chef with the company, made Watts The Crossing’s front-of-house manager, where he kept tabs on the beverage program and oversaw service. When Craig departed last week, Watts resumed his post in the kitchen.

“I want to make sure I keep people excited,” Watts said. “I want to stay within the realm of (Fiala’s) philosophy: seasonality, making sure we have as many local spring vegetables on the menu as we can.”

Other than a few subtle tweaks to a dish here and there, Watts said he has no plans to change the menu. His goal, he said, is to continue the sturdy reputation already enjoyed by The Crossing’s kitchen, known for its deft fusion of French, Italian and other Continental cooking styles.

“I’m a very technique-driven chef,” he said. “I just want a piece of fish cooked perfectly and a sauce that really complements all that and is done just right.”

The Crossing asks diners to Instagram for charity

Monday, September 9th, 2013

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The Crossing is encouraging diners to whip out their smartphones and snap away now through October. The restaurant, located at 7823 Forsyth Blvd., in Clayton, is participating in the James Beard Foundation’s Taste America Local Dish Challenge, which highlights local producers and promotes culinary education.

The Crossing will donate $1 from each Rain Crow Ranch Berkshire Bone-In Pork Chop (pictured) sold to the JBF Taste America Drive. And diners who post a picture of their chop to Instagram with the hashtags #Clayton and #JBFTasteAmerica could help a local nonprofit win big bucks, too. JBF will donate $10,000 to the city with the most tagged uploads; The Crossing selected Operation Food Search’s Nutrition and Culinary Education Program as its designated charity.

“This is a great opportunity for us to call attention to all of our local food providers and to make more people aware of the James Beard Foundation,” said chef-owner Jim Fiala in a press release.

 

 

The Scoop: Old Liluma to become Gamlin Whiskey House, opening in June

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Whatever happened to Derek and Lucas Gamlins’ plans to open a steakhouse in the old Liluma space in the Central West End? We were asking the same question, considering that the brothers, who also own Sub Zero Vodka Bar, had announced the venture back in November and pegged this month to open their contemporary American steakhouse.

Today, Derek Gamlin provided an update regarding action at the space at 236 N. Euclid Ave. The restaurant, whose name had been heretofore undisclosed, will be called Gamlin Whiskey House. While it will still be a steakhouse as previously planned, Gamlin emphasized that it would not be an “old-school” steakhouse. Rather, it will have a casual feel and be “bar forward.” As the name implies, Gamlin Whiskey House will carry an extensive selection of whiskey, with an emphasis on bourbon. The Gamlins, along with bar manager Dustin Parres (who currently oversees bar operations at Sub Zero) will be hand-selecting barrels of bourbon and making the spirit available on tap. “Eventually, we want to have six barrels on tap,” Gamlin said.

Gamlin declined to provide details of the food menu; however, he confirmed, that Ian Craig, executive chef at Sub Zero, is still slated for the top kitchen spot at the steakhouse. Jim Fiala, chef-owner of The Crossing, Acero and the shuttered Liluma, continues to be involved in the project, per Gamlin.

When asked what had delayed the project, Gamlin explained, “There was a snag in the lease.” The Gamlins expect to sign a renegotiated lease next week, and he noted that the restaurant has already been given its liquor license. Construction is expected to commence in two weeks; June 1 is the target opening date.

The Scoop: Liluma to Close, Steakhouse to Open In Its Place

Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Liluma, Jim Fiala’s upscale bistro at 236 N. Euclid Ave., in the Central West End, will close this year and be converted into a steakhouse that’s set to open in 2013. Liluma’s Side Door, the small plates concept that Fiala launched in Liluma’s back room in August, is also closing.

While considering making changes to Liluma earlier this year, Fiala was approached by Derek Gamlin, who owns Sub Zero Vodka Bar with his brother, Lucas, about converting the Liluma space into a steakhouse. Fiala quickly accepted the offer to be a partner, excited that the concept would make the neighborhood residents happy. “Liluma has been there for 10 years and has run its course,” Fiala said.

The steakhouse will be a contemporary American steakhouse with an affordable price point. Ian Craig, currently the executive chef at Sub Zero, will take the top spot in the kitchen at the steakhouse, and the Gamlin brothers will promote from within to appoint a new chef at Sub Zero. Dustin Parres will oversee bar operations at the steakhouse while also continuing his role as bar manager at Sub Zero. The name of the steakhouse is set to be revealed in the next few weeks.

Fiala will stay on as a consultant and be “a touch more than a silent partner because of my skill set. I can offer knowledge on food and wine and service,” he explained. “I didn’t want to leave the Central West End. This keeps me in the West End, even though it might be more limited.” The change will also give Fiala more time at his other restuarants, The Crossing in Clayton and Acero in Maplewood.

The space will be given a total gut rehab to “put the Sub Zero and Gamlin twist on it,” said Derek Gamlin. “This is not a Fiala Food restaurant,” he continued. “It’s totally different; it’s from our corporate side.” Though no exact date has been given, Fiala said that Liluma will close sometime in December, possibly as late as December 31. Construction will begin on January 1, and the steakhouse is tentatively slated to open on March 1. More as we learn it.

The Scoop: The Terrace View to close due to lack of downtown dinner-goers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

010710_terraceviewJim Fiala is calling it quits for The Terrace View, his downtown restaurant at 808 Chestnut St., that sits adjacent to Citygarden sculpture park. As first reported by Matt Sorrell of Feast, Fiala cited a lack of dinner patrons as the reason for closing the restaurant a little more than two years after it debuted.

While Fiala noted that lunchtime business has been consistent, dinner service has not seen the same success. “No one goes to the park at nighttime,” he said, noting that “last year about this time” was when he first harbored thoughts of closing the restaurant. “Once the newness of the park wore off – then you go through a winter of 10 degrees with blasting cold wind; no one will go to the park to see the garden.” Likewise, Fiala has seen excessive heat affect dinner service in the summer. “I had 45 people on the books on a Saturday night in July. But it was 105 degrees outside. By noon, every single reservation had called and canceled.” In Fiala’s view, the general public deems the restaurant and Citygarden as “a package deal.” While he would like to offer this amenity, “it’s not worth the hassle,” he summed.

As you’ll remember, The Terrace View has seen quite a bit of activity this year in the kitchen as well. In April, Jonathan Olson, formerly the executive chef at Erato Wine Bar in Edwardsville, took the top spot at The Terrace View. It wasn’t but a couple months later that Fiala confirmed that Olson had left The Terrace View and been replaced by Mason Denton, who formerly cooked at Pomme Café and Wine Bar in Clayton.

Beginning October 1, the restaurant will switch to its winter hours, serving only weekday lunch. Doors will close for good after service on December 31, which is when Fiala’s lease ends. Employees at the Terrace View, said Fiala, will be offered positions at his other three restaurants, Liluma, Acero and The Crossing.

UPDATE: The Scoop: Chef changes at The Crossing, Terrace View

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

041411_crossingThere has been a change at the back of the house at chef-owner Jim Fiala’s The Crossing. Ian Vest, who had been running day-to-day operations in the kitchen, has left the Clayton restaurant to pursue a culinary degree from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. Assuming the position is Matthew Abeshouse, who served as executive chef at Franco until this past January.

Saucy readers may recall that Vest was spotlighted among Ones to Watch in the October 2010 issue of Sauce. More recently, Vest bested his boss this past February when he emerged the winner of Chef Wars, a culinary “Iron Chef-esque” competition that pitted the chefs at each of Fiala’s four St. Louis restaurants against one other, with the victor taking on Fiala himself.

Abeshouse will be preparing the meal for the Peay Vineyards wine dinner that’s set to be held May 10 at The Crossing.

UPDATE: It looks like The Crossing isn’t the only one of Fiala’s restaurants that is welcoming a new face into the kitchen. Fiala told The Scoop today that Jonathon Olson will now be helming the kitchen at another of his restaurants, The Terrace View. Olson served as executive chef at Erato Wine Bar and Restaurant on Main Street in Edwardsville until last summer. Like Vest, he was named one of our Ones To Watch back in 2009.

Clayton Restaurant Week returns to get you out of your winter restaurant rut

Friday, January 14th, 2011

11411_CRWHaven’t had time to get away for a nice dinner lately? Is there a great restaurant you’ve been hoping to try but can’t justify shelling out the extra cash? Or, as the temperature drops, are you just stuck in a take-out rut? Well, fret not: Clayton Restaurant Week is returning for a little bit of culinary salvation.

Just like last year, diners can show up to several Clayton restaurants from Jan. 24 to 30, to enjoy a three-course meal for just $25. The list of restaurants this year is at 19, with a smorgasbord of cuisines available. Grab shrimp gyoza and the Erik Johnson Roll (filled with crab, cucumber, avocado, cream cheese, tuna, salmon, eel sauce, house-made creamy wasabi sauce and special seasoning) at Tani Sushi Bistro, enjoy lobster bisque and scallop of pork loin Zingara at the legendary Chez Leon or get a taste of Italy with  house-made gnocchi, lamb ragout and lemon-herb ricotta at Luciano’s Trattoria. Salivating yet?

Even better: Sip on a Pearl Vodka cocktail or a glass of Casa Lapostolle wine at a special restaurant week price. Not sure what to with all that cash you’ll be saving? Put it to good use by adding a few bucks to your bill for KidSmart, a charity which provides school supplies and educational resources to thousands of local students each week.

Here’s the full list of restaurants participating this year: Alexander’s, Araka, Bar Napoli, Barcelona, Bar Napoli, Cardwell’s, Chez Leon, J. Buck’s, Jimmy’s On The Park, Luciano’s Trattoria, Mazara, Mosaic Bistro Market, Oceano Bistro, Portabella, Remy’s Kitchen & Wine Bar, Roxanne, Ruth’s Chris, Tani Sushi Bistro, The Crossing and The Grill at The Ritz-Carlton.

With such a great deal available to all hungry St. Louisans, reservations are highly recommended. For more information, or just to drool over the slated menus, click here.

Fiala’s chefs battle it out in the St. Louis Chef Wars

Monday, October 18th, 2010

101810_battleJim Fiala is the owner of four restaurants around town: Liluma in the Central West End, The Crossing in Clayton, Acero in Maplewood and The Terrace View downtown. But he’s also a chef. And you may not know it yet but those who wear the white coats at each of his acclaimed restaurants will soon battle one another for the grand daddy of cooking competitions: Taking on the boss.

The St. Louis Chef Wars start out Nov. 8 at The Terrace View with the restaurant’s chef, Brad Watts, taking on The Crossing’s Ian Vest in a six-course Bottleshock Smackdown. Watts will be putting his California cuisine up against Vest’s French fare in a six-course meal that will include wines from both France and California, including Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, which was featured in the 2008 movie, Bottleshock. A $100 ticket will buy you dinner, wine and the right to vote on the winner.

The chefs from Fiala’s other two spots around town, Adam Gnau of Acero and Nick Cox of The Terrace View, will battle it out in December, followed by the winners’ battle in January and the grand competition against Fiala in February.

Now, as the Iron Chef chairman would say, let the games begin! To make reservations, call 314.436.8855.

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