Four Seasons St. Louis & Cielo's Chef's Table
Let me be real with you guys: I like nice things. In my previous life, I was a 24 year old expat living in Singapore. It broke me. For three years, I lived in a futuristic serviced apartment [basically a hotel]. When we traveled, it was business class and nice hotels. I felt like Ryan Bingham from Up In The Air. It was the best.
Then I moved back home to the suburbs of St. Louis, far from the world of electronic keycards and modern architecture. It was not the best. Oddly enough, I missed my hotel life.
A few months back, some friends mentioned that they enjoyed taking staycations at hotels here in town. How come I didn't think of that? The wheels started turning, and a month later, I was at the Four Seasons St. Louis for Memorial Day weekend.
Four Seasons St. Louis prides itself on being an 'urban oasis'—a title I planned to put to the test. I valet parked (cause I'm a baller) and checked in in less than 5 minutes. Expeditious. Friendly. Thumbs up.
I made my way to Cielo for a quick lunch, the highlight of which was this tiramisu—but the bison burger with intense Old Amsterdam cheese was no let down, either.
Full from eating a lunch made up almost entirely of dessert, I made my way up to my 16th floor room with what has to be one of the best Arch views in town. Everything was updated, nothing seemed old or worn down. Even the bathroom mirror has a TV built in. Another thumbs up.
And the staff had left me a gift basket! I cracked open a beer, nibbled on some Kakao chocolate, then took a nap on that heavenly bed. Life was good.
I had a reservation at the Chef's Table for the evening, so a stop on the spa floor for some gym time was in order. I tried to take a picture of the gym and spa, but people were in both and I didn't want to yet another arrest on my record. The gym is huge, and the spa is gorgeous. I did not feel classy enough to be in there.
Cielo's the only restaurant in town with a true Chef's Table—you eat your dinner in the kitchen, watching the chefs and cooks prepare a barrage of food. There's a slightly private room back there, but I picked the table with a view of everything. Things kicked off with an herb bread platter and a citrus, fennel, and pepper seared tuna plate. A crisp glass of prosecco cooled off the peppery fire in my mouth. Sommelier Jeffrey Hall had us covered.
Earlier in the day I'd made a joke to Chef Colucci about how when I was younger, I was all about the finer things—truffles, foie gras, and so on. So what does he do? He casually whips up a foie gras and truffle soup, poured over a scallop and cured egg yolk. For as rich as it was, it was surprisingly light. Magic. I felt like I was on Top Chef.
The next course was prepared by Niche alum, chef Michael Pastor—an absolutely beautiful piece of pork belly cooked low and slow until completely tender, paired perfectly with early summer berries. The bright flavors almost made me forget about the heaviness of the wonderfully fatty pork belly. Almost.
Not to be outdone, chef Colucci brought out another light dish—his Tonnarelli Neri. I've been over lobster for the last few years (1st world problem!), but if every lobster I ate was as tender as this, I'd be all about it. Combined with the squid ink pasta, oven dried tomatoes, and prosecco bagna cauda, the dish is a show stopper. It's part of Colucci's newly revamped Cielo dinner menu—the focus is now on authentic Piemontese cuisine, where he grew up—so make sure to order that next time you're in.
Jeffrey introduced me to Gewurtztraminer with the next course, and since then, I've spent way too much money on wine. I'd never met a white wine that I loved instantly until this one. My stomach thanks you, and my wallet hates you, Jeff.
It was paired with a duo of fish—a tuna 'burger' topped with duck confit and raw beets, over a bed of green peas and pickled red onions, and an out of focus (I'd had a lot of wine by this point. Leave me alone!) whole fried sardine with saba, a grape reduction, fennel, and carrot sauce. It takes a deft hand to make cooked tuna not taste like cat food, but they've done it. Bravo!
The main courses wrapped up with a hefty portion of lamb (and equally hefty pour of barolo) and tempura fried vegetables. I normally don't take notes, but feeling the wine, I decided it would be best. My notes for this course: "lamb, tempura veggies, sauces, mmm topping". Not very helpful, Spencer.
Tyrone, one of Cielo's pastry chefs, whipped us up our grand finale. I had already called uncle—I hadn't finished my lamb, I hadn't finished my wine. There was no way I was putting a dent in the dessert. But then came his take on cheesecake, and let me tell you, that plate was clean when I was done with it. Fresh berries, cocoa, pureed cheesecake—I don't even know what else was on that plate because I ate it so fast.
Things wrapped up with Colucci's limoncello and chocolatello. Both were decadently sweet and shockingly alcoholic. This guy clearly knows how to party. The chocolatello was like the richest chocolate syrup you've ever had, spiked with Everclear.
I loved the chef's table experience. Sitting in on the action, watching your food get made, getting one-off dishes based on the chef's inspiration or your interests. If you're looking for a unique celebratory dinner or you've got your company's credit card, a visit to the chef's table is a worthy expenditure.
As the meal came to a close, I wobbled my way back to my room and turned the AC down low. I needed to hibernate, like some kind of drunk bear. I was packed to the brim with booze and food. It was the best.
In the morning, I ordered in breakfast, because that's what fancy/lazy people do Poached eggs, crispy bacon, herb potatoes, rye toast with jam, and freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Plus a huge pot of coffee. Once I was feeling human again, I made my way out to the pool deck and took in some sun before heading home. Staycation: complete.
I was welcomed to the Four Seasons Hotel St. Louis as a special media guest. Opinions are my own.