The Five Most Promising Menus from Clayton Restaurant Week 2013



As we told you last week, the fourth annual Clayton Restaurant Week will run Monday, January 21, through Sunday, January 27. Seventeen Clayton restaurants will offer three-course meals for $25 per person, tax and tip not included. In what has become a Gut Check tradition for the higher-profile restaurant weeks -- namely, this one and Downtown -- I've studied the seventeen prix-fixe menus to determine which restaurants promise the most bang for your buck. This is no guarantee of a great experience, of course, just our way of pointing out which spots offer the most intriguing and/or the greatest number of choices.

Remember: Reservations for Clayton Restaurant Week are pretty much a must.

A couple of notes before we get to the main course:

- Coastal Bistro & Bar (14 North Central Avenue, Clayton; 314-932-7377) wins the first annual Not Really Trying award. Its menu features only two choices for each of the first two courses -- crab cake or poached apple salad; pork tenderloin or pan-seared corvina -- and then a choice of dessert "shooter" to conclude. Come on, guys. You couldn't have thrown in a a couple of oysters or something?

- I raised an eyebrow when I saw Crushed Red (8007 Maryland Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-8007) among this year's restaurants. The average diner wouldn't spend $25 there on a regular occasion. In fact, Crushed Red is offering a $25 meal for two people: an appetizer, two small salads and a pizza. Not a bad deal.

OK. Without further ado (except a click-through 'cuz food bloggers gotta get paid, son), your five best bets for Clayton Restaurant Week 2013:

Araka (131 Carondelet Plaza, Clayton; 314-725-6777)

Araka offers plenty of variety: six first courses (salads and soups), five second courses (appetizers) and five main courses. Appealing dishes include a warmed beet salad, a roasted cauliflower soup, wild-mushroom-duck-confit ravioli and pan-roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts.

The Crossing (7823 Forsyth Boulevard, Clayton; 314-721-7375)

The Crossing has decent variety: four appetizers, four main courses and three desserts. But the main appeal here is that this is Jim Fiala's the Crossing. If you wouldn't normally splurge for a visit, now's your chance. I like the sound of the braised brisket with white polenta, haricot verts and natural jus.

Jimmy's Cafe on the Park (706 De Mun Avenue, Clayton; 314-725-8585)

The dishes on Jimmy's Cafe on the Park might not blow you away on paper. They're familiar crowd pleasers, after all. But there are many to choose from including flash-fried spinach or tuna tartare among the first courses, porcini-polenta-encrusted chicken and that tried-and-true dessert, death by chocolate.

Oceano Bistro (44 North Brentwood Boulevard, Clayton; 314-721-9400)

The Ocean Bistro menu has OK variety: three appetizers, four main courses, three desserts. But the selections in the first two categories, especially, are appealing including a crab cake with a lemongrass-coconut emulsion and a Meyer lemon vinaigrette and a herb-crusted sea bass with smoked-tomato butter.

Remy's Kitchen & Wine Bar (222 South Bemiston Avenue, Clayton; 314-726-5757)

A strong selection of appetizers and desserts help Remy's stand out. Among the former are grape leaves stuffed with ground lamb and rice and served in a tomato-cumin sauce. Among the desserts are almond-crusted mascarpone cheesecake and an almond cake with apricot jam. Main courses include grilled salmon and grilled beef tenderloin.