Scape American Bistro
Shortly after this was written, the kitchen staff & menu changed. Expect a different experience.
In September 2014, I went to Scape American Bistro and had an enjoyable meal. I was rating my dinners back then, and I gave it a 4/5—that's some high praise. Yet...I just returned for the first time since then. Why?
The meal, while good at the time, didn't resonate with me. Scape joined the little compartment in my brain where I store restaurants that I wouldn't mind eating at, but are never my first choice. No one asked me to go, so I never went again.
Then, about a month ago, I caught wind that Shimon Diamond, formerly chef at Cielo, had taken over the reigns at Scape. I don't know Shimon and I never had his food at the Four Seasons, but listening to other chefs talk about him, I knew I had to try his revamped menu ASAP.
Almost the entire Scape menu has been changed. We start the meal with the kampachi semi crudo—raw kona kampachi over fried wonton chips, served with rice vinegar 'caviar' and a soy-bourbon caramel. The dish pushes the limits of what a piece of tender, mild raw fish can compete with, but it narrowly pulls it off.
Diamond's take on liver and onions is a beautifully composed tower of lily jam (from what I can tell, an intensely sweet onion jam), cherry smoked foie gras, and crispy shallots. Nearly neon dots of green onion puree flank it. The foie is rich, of course, but the smoke gives it a flavor boost that allows me to eat far more than I normally would. I don't remember anything like this here before...
Next comes a rather large Staub cast-iron filled with the chef's take on poutine, a massive amount of thick cut fries, tender, slow cooked pork, French navy beans, fluorescent pickled red onions, and chevre. This dish was made for sitting out on the Scape patio while watching a Cardinals game and enjoying some beers. I do miss the gravy aspect of poutine, but it's still a gigantic bowl of fries, meat, and cheese—something that rarely turns out badly.
The final share plate arrives, and it's an homage to Diamond's Polish background: pierogies stuffed with pastrami, ricotta and poatoes, over house-made sauerkraut, beets, and garlic fennel sausage. It takes me back to the Old Country. It's like I'm back on the shtetl!
The "Day Boat" special is a whole grilled Yellow snapper, a treat that we can't pass up. It seems that more and more restaurants are using whole fish (Boundary, Truffles, and Publico come to mind), and I applaud them. Whole fish is best fish. The evening's preparation, complete with two spicy Latin American sauces and a bowl of some kind of stewed beans, comes from the sous chefs, Raul Hernandez and Alex Henry, and they nailed it.
Diamond had personally recommended the Monkfish and chips, which made it an easy decision for me. As it's being set down in front of me, he's explaining the long process they go through to make these, but all I can focus on are these three golden orbs—they look like popovers. I'm in a trance. I shake myself out of it just in time to hear him say that I can't miss the housemade barrel aged beer vinegar that comes with it.
I dive in and fall deeply in love. The batter is like the lovechild of tempura and beer batter. It's light and fluffy. I smear each bite with tartare sauce and vinegar, smiling like an idiot, knowing that I won the ordering for that night. Before I know it, my plate is bare, my chips are gone.
Even as my gut reached maximum capacity, dessert had to be tried. On the 'lighter' side, a mixed berry panna cotta with a blackberry-mint coulis. The chocolate torte, which has a layer of caramel inside of it, because why not, comes with caramel ice cream. I drop the spoon. I am defeated.
With a new chef team and new menu, I went into this thinking of Scape like a new restaurant, and quite frankly, I was blown away.
Diamond said that his goal with Scape is to figure out what it means to be an American bistro in the Midwest. The focus is on using more local ingredients, making more things in-house, and continuing to innovate. This is the first iteration of what will become, I predict, one of my favorite restaurants in St. Louis.
The wait to revisit won't be over a year this time—I'm planning on going back next week.