by Ian Froeb
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.