Big Night Out: Six luxe ways to celebrate the holidays

The answer is yes. Live a little. December is made for merrymaking, and with a select list of splurges at your fingertips, you can start to decorate your calendar.

Mandarin Lounge
44 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis 314.367.4447

Flash a Ulysses S. Grant at Mandarin and – eureka – a Gold Standard Cosmopolitan appears. The Central West End lounge makes this high-rolling cocktail with two smooth operators: Gran Patrón Platinum, a triple-distilled silver tequila, and Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, a velvety blend of rare cognacs. Feel the burn. Then pucker up. Tart white cranberry juice is in the mix too, along with a touch of fresh O.J. The VIP ingredient in this Cosmo is edible gold – and whether you and yours belong to the bling-bling set or not, 23K gold flakes are going to make everyone’s eyes sparkle.

999 N. Second St., St. Louis

Five. Thousand. Dollars. The FleurBurger 5000 at Sleek costs $5,000 – and that’s because super-chef Hubert Keller made it fit for a king. A patty of Japanese wagyu beef forms a palatial foundation, while a slice of pan-seared foie gras adds affluence to opulence.

Wait, we’re not finished – not nearly.

Black Périgord truffles (yes, those black Périgord truffles) pile high on the hamburger as well as the plate. You’ll also find them in the dipping sauce for the fingerling potato fries – meaning you’ll probably want to pass on plebeian ketchup for a night. The FleurBurger, which is served on a brioche bun, comes with other exquisite accoutrements including fleur de sel so that you can season each bite to taste.

Wait, we’re still not finished – not nearly.

Sleek presents the FleurBurger with a bottle of Château Pétrus (yes, that Château Pétrus) and crystal stemware from Italy. Afterward, the restaurant sends your keepsake glasses in the mail along with a certificate stating that you’ve been there and done that. Is Hubert Keller’s signature a stamp? “Oh, no, no, no. He signs it himself,” said corporate chef Laurent Pillard. You cannot put a price tag on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Isn’t it wonderful?

Robust Wine Bar and Café
227 W. Lockwood Ave., Webster Groves 314.963.0033

Stanley Browne, proprietor of Robust in Webster Groves, understands that suspense can be delicious.

Order a bottle of bubbly, and Browne or another staffer will saber it. First, you’ll see the foil peeling – slowly, very slowly – off the neck. Next get a good, long look at a flickering 12-inch blade. Then it’s time for the saber bearer to strike the bottle just below its lip – “not too soft and not too hard,” Browne said – and pop goes the cork.

Remember that the pressure inside a champagne bottle more than doubles what a car tire packs, so either watch all the drama through a window or follow your server outside. Robust provides this lavish bottle service six nights a week. Gratis.

Monarch Restaurant
7401 Manchester Road, Maplewood 314.644.3995

At Monarch, the skybox is the limit of luxury. Think of this room overlooking the kitchen as a chef’s table with a bird’s-eye view. Skyboxers have the option of simply ordering from the menu, although it’d be far more festive to sextuple your pleasure. That’s right, sextuple. Executive chef Joshua Galliano offers a six-course tasting menu with wine parings for $125 per person. (Teetotalers can indulge in a wineless, less expensive repast.) At the evening’s start, Galliano spirals up the staircase and collects requests before then deciding how best to spoil you. Don’t rosemary-infused sweetbreads sound like real charmers?

The skybox only accommodates 10 diners at a time – so make your guest list and check it twice.

Sub Zero Vodka Bar
308 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis 314.367.1200

Held in a cozy, subterranean cove, Sub Zero’s sushi school offers an ocean of indulgence. Save a date, set a menu and dive in. Classes at the Central West End hot spot consist of a customized four-course feast for up to 10 people. Order caviar, if you like. Or octopus. Or sea urchin. Salmon sashimi always makes a good catch too – especially when it’s right off the tip of a knife. Veteran sushi chef Vu Hoang will demonstrate how to fillet fish and cook sticky rice – and he’ll also share tricks for making maki. Last but not least: sake, vodka or wine. If you don’t want just one, opt for a hand-selected sampling of sakes, vodkas or wines plural. The cost of all this higher learning ranges from $50 to $200 per person; it just depends on how you personalize your syllabus.

Be advised that sushi school does have one rule: absolutely no cheating on the taste test.

Bissinger’s: A Chocolate Experience
32 Maryland Plaza, St. Louis 314.367.7750

Chambord, Kahlúa and Drambuie – on second thought, make that Sambuca, Grand Marnier and Disaronno.

The next time you’re out and about in the Central West End, let your friends talk you into a liqueur flight at Bissinger’s. Three sweet nips are served in dark chocolate cups that’d make Willy Wonka (as played by the blithesome Gene Wilder) eat his heart out. Bissinger’s candy glasses have delicate ripples and a 55 percent cocoa mass. Break a bit off to go with each sip or drink up and then carpe diem in a single bite. Decadent without an extravagant tab, these nightcaps offer delicious proof that big things sometimes come in small packages.