Copia Runneth Over

The food's delish, but Copia still needs to prove a thing or two to oenephiles

Appetizers include a well-considered plate of smoked trout that was accompanied by toast points, a creamy horseradish sauce akin to aioli and a mess of capers, chopped tomatoes and red onion that might best be described as pico de capers. Thanks to a delicate smoking that preserved the trout's natural oils, the fish hinted of the pleasant essence of a grilled salmon, but with a firmer texture than salmon and a more mature flavor. I've never cared much for spare ribs, but Copia's, charred on the outside with a sprinkling of chives, provided ample mouthfuls of meat that pulled cleanly off the bone and melded well with a sweet barbecue sauce served on the side.

Desserts are presented not on a printed menu, but in person on an audacious, colored-glass tray — a bit of retro service reincarnated. Pastry chef Sarah Brennan seems inclined toward a provocative, Vegas look for her creations, judging by all the plumes of spun sugar soaring out of them, and the little golf ball-size scoops of ice cream perched rakishly upon many a cake or torte, like a cigarette girl's pillbox hat. A raspberry bombe, pink mousse covered in a white chocolate shell, was served cold enough that the mousse did double duty as a mock ice cream. A "cowboy" — like a brownie crowned with a "tollhouse" topping of chips and nuts — needed its scoop of vanilla to impart a pleasant creaminess to its dryish texture.

Two lunch visits didn't match up to my Saturday-night dinner at Copia. By the look of the Copia salad, the house is unafraid to try something different; a tangle of red wine-soaked onions the color of Beaujolais and a goat cheese-smeared crostini on top looked promising. Halfway through, though, the salad lay in soggy ruins, done in by a balsamic sludge underneath that progressed from unpleasant to unbearable. The roasted portobello and artichoke cake sandwich was more intellectually than viscerally satisfying. Clearly handmade, the "cake" was airy and downy but also weak in flavor and impractically loose (all the more so when served next to a heap of shredded lettuce intended to be a topping). A crab cake sandwich on an onion roll fared better, while an Italian club clocked in as deli-issue grub and nothing more.

Copia brings a truly new, exciting concept to downtown St. Louis.
Jennifer Silverberg
Copia brings a truly new, exciting concept to downtown St. Louis.

Location Info

Map

Copia Urban Winery

1122 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63101

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Downtown

Details

Copia salad $5.95
Spare ribs $7.95
Duck breast $24.95
Surf and turf $31.95

Copia Urban Winery and Market 1122 Washington Avenue; 314-621-7275. Hours: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon.-Sat.

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During my most recent meal at Copia, our party ordered a bottle of Washington state cabernet, which our friendly server transported to the table wedged under her forearm. After presenting the label, she inexplicably departed to do a few quick other things — with the bottle still lodged in her armpit. Meanwhile, we looked on jealously as the server at another table swaddled a bottle in a linen napkin, decanted it into his table's tumblers like a pro, then placed the half-empty bottle in a holder, with the cork in a nifty little cubbyhole. When our server deigned to return, she poured our wine, then left the bottle and the cork standing solo on our tabletop.

It's not that I coveted our neighbors' coaster. (In fact, I can do without the cork entirely; sniffing it like a prize truffle is so ten years ago.) I just want Copia to present a smoother — but not slick — oeno-rific experience. I'd hate to think the wine concept was just a gimmick to get me through the door.

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