Siam Aims to Be a Place to Eat, Drink and Be Bear-y: Review

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Onigiri: Tea smoked salmon, teriyaki sauce, fried rice ball, spring onion. | Jennifer Silverberg

Siam
(4121 Manchester Avenue; 314-533-7426)
Hours: 4 p.m.-3 a.m. Wed.-Sat., 1 p.m.-3 a.m. Sun. (Closed Mon. and Tues.)

It was an early Friday night at Siam, and the place was filled with its usual suspects: young professionals bidding farewell to the week over martinis, a gaggle of beautiful people in their nightclub best and a large group of puppies. Not the adorable, furry kind — the fetish kind. The leather-clad-men-on-leashes kind.

Indeed, the scene at Siam doesn't exactly scream "restaurant" (unless that's the safe word), but owners Steven Preston and Ron Bray are challenging diners to think differently. When the two acquired the former Novak's space, they had a choice — either reopen as just another Grove gay bar or try something new. They created Siam to be equal parts restaurant, bar and nightclub, inviting diners to partake of its "elevated comfort food."

See also: Giovanni's Kitchen Has Quality of the Hill without the Bill: Review

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Giovanni's Kitchen Has Quality of the Hill without the Bill: Review

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Lasagnette a.k.a. an individually baked lasagna. | Jennifer Silverberg

Giovanni's Kitchen
(8831 Ladue Road, Ladue; 314-721-4100)
Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat. (Closed Sun.)

Several years ago, my friend and I got all gussied up and treated ourselves to dinner at Giovanni's on the Hill. Clad in semi-formal attire, we wined and dined in exquisite style as tuxedoed waiters prepared our dinners tableside, flambéed our desserts and served us warmed cognac. Don King was at the bar. It was fabulous.

The superior food and service came at quite a price, though, and no matter how strong a hankering I get for "Pappardelle alla Bella Oprah," I can't fork over that kind of cash on a regular basis.

Frank and Carmelo Gabriele seem to understand this sentiment. Their father, Giovanni's on the Hill patriarch Giovanni Gabriele, taught the brothers all about fine Italian dining. He also taught them business savvy, and the duo saw a market for a dressed-down version of their dad's upscale flagship. The result is the comfortably elegant Giovanni's Kitchen.

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Critic's Notebook: How Lauren "Lulu" Loomis Turned a Successful Food Truck Into Restaurant

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Lauren "Lulu" Loomis in her garden. | Jennifer Silverberg

When Lauren "Lulu" Loomis and her husband Robert Tucker arrived on an organic farm in New Zealand, they were asked an important question: What do you want to learn?

"Everything," Loomis answered without hesitation. "We want to learn everything."

Loomis and Tucker got what they asked for. During their time working in Kiwi country as part of the WWOOF program (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) the pair learned everything from beekeeping to homesteading to how to brew beer. The education inspired them to bring back what they learned to the U.S.

See Also: Lulu's Local Eatery Puts Down Roots and Flourishes on South Grand: Review

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Lulu's Local Eatery Puts Down Roots and Flourishes on South Grand: Review

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Order up. | Jennifer Silverberg

Since 2012 Lauren "Lulu" Loomis and her husband, Robert Tucker, have built a loyal following of herbivores and omnivores alike with their vegan food truck, Lulu's Local Eatery. This May they built on that success by opening a brick-and-mortar, fast-casual restaurant of the same name. The new Lulu's Local Eatery (3201 South Grand Boulevard; 314-357-7717) features many of the truck's offerings, as well as an expanded menu made possible by a full-size, permanent kitchen.

Lulu's carries its eco-friendly philosophy throughout the restaurant; Loomis and Tucker incorporated environmentally friendly materials into the build out of the restaurant, resulting in a rustic, organic feel to the space. The focal point of the room is a large mural made out of moss (handcrafted by Loomis) that makes the wall look like a living, vertical garden.

See also: Bishop's Post Serves "Classic Comfort" Food - But for Whom?: Review

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Bishop's Post Serves "Classic Comfort" Food - But for Whom?: Review

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The revamped Bishop's Post in Chesterfield. | Caroline Yoo

Following the dissolution of his business partnership with Amer Abouwardah, the owner of Oceano Bistro in Clayton, Ben Bishop Jr. sought to transform the Chesterfield location of the upscale seafood spot into a more laid-back, meat-and-potatoes eatery. The result is Bishop's Post (16125 Chesterfield Parkway West, Chesterfield; 636-536-9404), named after Bishop and the founder of Chesterfield, Justus Post.

Read the restaurant's website, and one gets the impression that this is a down-home Americana joint where the fried chicken sizzles and the meatloaf is Mom's secret recipe. Walk into Bishop's Post, however, and it still looks very similar to the sleek Oceano.

See also: Bocci Bar Still Struggles with Its Identity: Review

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Critic's Notebook: Rosé Increases in Popularity in the St. Louis Summer Heat

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Olio's private label rosé. | Image courtesy of Olio

For this week's review, I visited Bocci Bar (16 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-932-1040) in Clayton, the latest concept from Frank Schmitz, whose other restaurants include Coastal Bistro & Bar and BARcelona. Though I was underwhelmed with Bocci's menu revamp, the wine bar's extensive selection of quality rosé wines was impressive. Soon after dining at Bocci, it seemed like the pink-hued stuff was everywhere, popping up on some of the city's best wine lists. It got me wondering: Is rosé making a comeback?

"Actually, it's always been around," says Andrey Ivanov, sommelier at Elaia and Olio (1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088). "It's just that our market is starting to be willing to try new things. People are more educated about wine now." Ivanov acknowledges that increased awareness of rosé has led to increased demand. "I can't think of a reputable restaurant in town that doesn't have at least one [rosé] by the glass."

See Also: Bocci Bar Still Struggles with Its Identity

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Bocci Bar Still Struggles with Its Identity: Review

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Jennifer Silverberg
Bocci's flight of soups features vichyssoise, gazpacho, and watermelon and mint.

Restaurateur Frank Schmitz owns two places just a block from one another in Clayton. While BARcelona Tapas restaurant hustles and bustles, the other, Bocci Wine Bar, has floundered as a moderately upscale Italian bistro. Schmitz decided to temporarily shutter Bocci for remodeling and retooled it as a small-plates restaurant and wine bar. His logic makes sense: BARcelona clicked; Bocci did not. BARcelona is casual, small-plates-style dining, and Bocci was more formal with traditional, coursed offerings. So it seemed simple enough: Take a successful business model and replicate it.

See also: Review: Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall

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Critic's Notebook: Urban Chestnut's Andrew Fair on WWOOFing in Tuscany

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Urban Chestnut's chef Andy Fair. | Jennifer Silverberg

I first learned of WWOOF when chatting with Nate and Victoria Weber of the Libertine about their time spent on an Oregon goat farm. During a conversation with Urban Chestnut's (4465 Manchester Avenue; 314-222-0143) chef Andy Fair, WWOOF came up again. Fair was more than willing to tell me all about the funny-sounding organization -- and wax poetically about his time on a Tuscan vineyard.

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, an organization that connects wouldbe volunteers with opportunities to work all over the world. As Fair explains, it can be as simple as a means to travel inexpensively and learn some things along the way, or it can be a chance to dig in and learn anything from cheesemaking to viticulture.

See Also: Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall delivers food as flavorful as its beers

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Review: Urban Chestnut Grove Brewery and Bierhall

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Jennifer Silverberg
Hungarian bratwurst alongside roasted cauliflower, cider marrow beans, wheat toast and romesco sauce.
Urban Chestnut cofounders Florian Kuplent and David Wolfe call their brewing philosophy "beer divergency" — a blending of modern innovation with reverence for the past. This old-meets-new style is on full display at their sweeping new bierhall in the Grove. Walk inside, and you'd be forgiven for thinking you had stepped through a wormhole and landed in Germany. Mammoth, rustic wooden tables large enough for a medieval feast line the room, the smell of wurst and brewer's yeast fills the air, and a raucous din imbues the place with jovial energy. Yet there's no beer wench or lederhosen in sight. Instead, what stands out is how decidedly modern the bierhall feels. Polished concrete floors and industrial details look more like a contemporary loft than the Hofbräuhaus.

See also: Taha'a Twisted Tiki serves cocktails from paradise - and food from somewhere else entirely

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Critic's Notebook: The Case of the Missing Lobster Roll at Three Flags Tavern

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The Connecticut-style lobster roll at Three Flags Tavern. | Corey Woodruff

It was 12:45 p.m. on a Wednesday at Three Flags Tavern (4940 Southwest Avenue; 314-669-9222) and I had just tried -- and failed -- for a third time to order the lobster roll. The restaurant -- which I have declared possibly the best new opening of 2014 -- does everything so sublimely, but I began to wonder if its lobster roll is poised to be the St. Louis version of Big Foot. Why is it so hard to get my hands on one?

"I thought twelve to twenty sandwiches would be enough to get us through lunch," chef and owner John O'Brien says. "Obviously, I was wrong."

See Also: High-Flying Three Flags Tavern: Is this the best restaurant opening of 2014?

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