Want your restaurant to have that cosmopolitan sparkle? Hire a design firm from New York City. That's what the brains behind Araka, Clayton's terrific Southern European restaurant, did. And the Big Apple's David Schefer Design turned out one of St. Louis' most striking spaces since — well, ever. The exterior is deceptively simple: black-frame windows and black awnings that follow the curve of the new Carondelet Plaza complex. Step inside and you might have trouble deciding which is more impressive: the soaring ceiling of the main dining room, the glassed-in wine tower behind the bar or the private, glassed-in dining area that overlooks it all from the second floor. There's ample light for those who've grown weary of reading menus by the glow of their cell phones, but booths and the smaller dining area closer to the kitchen provide a more intimate atmosphere. It's a good thing executive chef Mark Curran's menu is so impressive — otherwise you might never think to look at your plate.
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