Five Bistro in St. Louis
Five Bistro is an anomaly. It’s in on the Hill, the cozy Italian section of St. Louis, yet it’s not an Italian restaurant. It does share a common trait with many of its Hill peers however, in that is family owned and operated, with a strong emphasis on service. Joe and Bonnie Devoti manage the front of the house: son Anthony is the executive chef. Though I didn’t meet Chef Anthony, his parents were charming, appropriately attentive , and they ran the restaurant as though it were a walk in the park. The service throughout the evening was impeccable. It’s not a stretch for me to suggest that the last time I may have had service of this quality was in a Danny Meyer restaurant, ironically a St. Louis boy who made good and is building a restaurant empire in New York City.
But man/woman cannot live on service alone, so let me assure you that the food was every bit as compelling. The menu changes daily depending on what the chef finds at market, so the ingredients in every dish scream “fresh” and the vegetables taste just picked. All meats and cheeses are locally sourced. Everything is homemade, including the outstanding foccacia, which was served with olive oil ( a bit like gilding a lily). And the ravioli. The night I was there, the housemade pasta was stuffed with roasted beets, pecans, and local goat cheese, served atop mushroom and cauliflower puree. It looked rich, but was light and dreamy.
I chose the scallop entree, and though it was pricey for the size (2 large scallops for $25), each of the scallops was sweet, succulent and perfectly prepared. The Chioggia beets, snap peas and squash that accompanied the scallops were crisp and bursting with flavor. The dish, served on watercress, was finished with a light champagne vinaigrette.
Other menu options included an appetizer tart with stilton bleu cheese, caramelized onion and tarragon with a balsamic reduction and micro greens, housemade charcuterie, a sprout salad with more of those sweet beets, beef tenderloin, a pork special, a half-chicken with gnocchi and rabbit.
Desserts are identified on the menu as a “sorbet tasting”, a “pastry tasting” and a “chocolate tasting”. The server described each one lovingly as he explained that though each has at least a couple of components, they aren’t too big to conquer. And conquer we did, sampling each of the evening’s chocolate desserts. One was a kind of caramel nouget dipped in chocolate and served with homemade chocolate ice cream, the other was a slice of flourless chocolate torte with homemade mint ice cream. Each was art on a plate.
The wine list is small (read:manageable), incredibly well-conceived and fairly priced.
I was pleased with the size of the portions, (it’s nice to have room for dessert) though they may not satisfy the hungriest appetite. To counter that possibility, there’s a 4 course option for $45 that’s hard to beat.
The restaurant is casual yet tastefully appointed, walk-ins are welcome and big parties can be accommodated. If you want a quiet evening, ask for the front room. The back room is also lovely, but larger and more lively.
My only regret is that this gem is not in Kansas City. If it were, it would be my go-to place for a casual evening (for a glass of wine and an appetizer at the bar) or a special night out. Though it has received some well-deserved accolades, Five Bistro has largely flied under the radar. I can’t believe that will be the case for long.