The product of chef Cassy Vires, formerly of Ernesto's Wine Bar (2730 McNair Avenue; 314-664-4511) and contributor to Feast, and her husband, Josh Renbarger, Home Wine Kitchen (7322 Manchester Road, Maplewood; 314-802-7676) is the newest eatery to hit the Maplewood strip, taking up shop in the space that used to be the neighborhood bistro Nosh.
Gut Check dropped in on the restaurant's soft open, which was pretty well attended; proceeds from the night benefited Discovering Options' IronKids program. The idea behind Home Wine Kitchen is a simple one: After moving to St. Louis, Vires and Renbarger regularly invited friends over for dinner at their home, and the pair wanted to translate that feeling into a restaurant. "We want the restaurant to feel like you're eating dinner at our house," Renbarger says.
With a mission to serve elevated comfort food, the restaurant strikes a nice balance between casual and sophisticated; we sat on simple stools at a butcher paper-covered high-top table and stared at a wine list a mile long. (A member of Home's staff later joked that we could lean on the wall if balancing on the stools after drinking wine proved too difficult.)
Home Wine Kitchen's décor is understated and neutral: dark-colored walls, track lighting, tan curtains hanging on the big front window. The cheese and charcuterie menu is splashed on the wall, but minimalism is definitely the restaurant's look, which puts the focus on the food and wine.
And, oh, the wine list! Gone are the days of choosing a vino based on price. Wines are $8 a glass, and dropping $30 will buy you the bottle, so you can pick something based on taste and not the constraints of your wallet. People tend to choose the middle-priced wine so they don't look cheap or pretentious in front of others, says Renbarger. "People are nervous to try new things, especially to spend money," he says. "But wine is as much a part of the meal as your starts, your meat, your vegetables." The line pricing was designed so Home's staff could help guests select the best wine for their meal, stress-free. The beer selection is also reasonably priced and helpfully divided into light-, medium- and full-bodied styles.
The small five-dish entrée portion of the menu, which will change weekly based on what looks good at the market and what Vires is excited to cook that week, ranges from $17 to $24 and includes fare such as sea scallops, pork tenderloin and risotto with Parmesan, basil, pine nuts and tomato confit that our vegetarian table split. With a salad and a side of red potatoes cooked with rosemary, lemon and garlic, it was more than enough to fill the two of us.
Starters include a soup of the day (pea consommé), various salads, steamed clams and a dish disguised with the moniker "milk and cookies," which turned out to be Parmesan discs with soured goat's milk. Home Wine Kitchen's sides, such as asparagus, braised beets and red potatoes are meant to be shared family-style, a strategy that works well if you're looking for something small to enjoy with your drink. We had to skip dessert, but scanning the menu revealed a red wine caramel, chocolate cake and panna cotta made with rhubarb, if you wanted to indulge after dinner.