Five Bistro has closed.
I'd never given much thought about chef Anthony Devoti's Five Bistro before seeing it ranked at #11 on Ian Froeb's The 100 Best Restaurants in St. Louis list. It's a place I haven't heard much about since returning here and based on its location on The Hill, I made an assumption that it was just another Italian restaurant (i.e., boring 'classic' Italian food). It turns out that it's a new American bistro with a menu that changes daily based on what's in season and available from local farmers, so I was pretty far off on that one. It has a very neighborhood-restaurant vibe to it, if that makes sense. It's the kind of restaurant that floats between being good for a casual dinner or something fancier, like a date or anniversary. It's probably a little too bright and friendly to meet a Tinder 'date' at, though.
The menu reflects the neighborhood feeling. Starters lie mostly in the pasta family, with gnocchi, tagliatelle, and risotto serving as bases, along with a soup, a salad and a charcuterie board (which I did not have, but I have heard is stellar). Looking at both current and past menus, what's noticeable to me is that their dishes all sound like a restaurant version of what you would make at home. It's comfort food, in that sense.
After going through the menu and placing our orders, our waitress - who was friendly, attentive, and great with recommending and describing dishes - brought us a small amuse-bouche of Goat Cheese and Salmon over a crostini.
We tried two cocktails: the Hot & Dirty and the Ginger Daiquiri. The Hot & Dirty reminded me of something I made in college when my friends and I thought we were mixologists.
The ginger daiquiri was delicious with Diplomático añejo dark rum, The Big O ginger liqueur, fresh lime, raw sugar, Bittermans boston bittahs. I'm not sure you'd ever see Don Draper drinking it, but I liked it.
The soup du jour - that sounds good, I'll have that - was butternut squash mixed with a J.T. Gelineau oyster mushroom salad and creme fraiche. We all agreed that even though the amount of mushroom in the dish was relatively small, the flavor was just as potent as the squash itself.
An off the menu special for the evening was a salmon tartare with aioli and crackers. A simple dish that let the salmon shine.
Just looking at this next picture is making me hungry. Chef Devoti's spring onion gnocchi with housecured lardo, ozark morels, ramps, olive oil, black pepper, and Beehive Cheese's honey-rubbed Seahive was the best dish of the night. I would return solely for this dish.
This is early spring Missouri on a plate. If someone told me to take one dish from The Hill that represented spring and the area it came from, it would be this. Pillowy soft gnocchi, the light smoke of the lardo, and the smooth cheese all served to push the subtle flavors of the ramps and morels to the top.
Before I even tried the Benne's Farm hickory roasted pork loin, I took a big forkful of the creamy polenta and gravy alone. Something amazing happens when you take any sort of corn-based 'porridge' and mix it with a meat gravy. The pork itself was cooked well, accompanied by hen of the woods mushrooms, spring onions, and a herb butter. Oh baby.
The Benne's Farm chicken breast is an example of what I said before about this being a restaurant quality version of what you make at home. Substitute your dried out skinless chicken breast and Trader Joes bag o' vegetables for a perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken breast, local squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, and you've got this. Our last entree was Halibutfrom Neah Bay, Washington, served over sorrel, rutabaga, red new potatoes, fiddlehead ferns, and topped with a ramp and lime vinaigrette. I thought it could have used a little more "umph" - I didn't have a gravy and polenta reaction. I have no pictures of our dessert due to a camera issue, but we tried their Apple Sorbet and cherry/pistachio biscotti, as well as their Peanut crunch ice cream bombe, served with peanut brittle, creme anglaise, and candied peanuts. Both were good, one was better. Can you guess which? Hint: it's the one with all the sugar and cream.
We all enjoyed our meal at Five Bistro, and if we lived nearby, it's probably somewhere we'd eat at fairly frequently. While my palate trends toward modern and ethnic foods, I have a lot of respect for chef Devoti for his focus on taking local produce and crafting well cooked meals out of them. We could use more restaurants with that kind of dedication around town.