Both the tasting and the à la carte menus change frequently. In fact, in only four months, Poremba tells me, he has moved through a thousand different dishes. In general, you can expect the tasting menu to proceed from lighter seafood- and vegetable-based dishes to meatier fare and then conclude with a couple of desserts. (More on the sweet stuff later.) The à la carte list features a half-dozen or so appetizers and salads, two or three middle courses (often housemade pastas) and four or five entrées.

General manager and sommelier Andrey Ivanov has put together a wine list that includes not only the expected Old and New World regions but also Romania, Slovenia, Greece, Lebanon and even Mexico. The staff relishes pairing these wines, especially the unusual ones, with your meal. Beer and cocktails, too: My favorite pairings from the tasting menu were a gin cocktail (with the pickled herring) and a wild sour Italian ale (with the sweetbreads). If you can swing the expense — the pairings add $100 per person to the tasting menu's $100-a-pop tab — you should.

Poremba and Ivanov have put together as professional a service staff as you will find in St. Louis. (So professional, in fact, that the staff quickly made me out as a restaurant critic on my first visit.) From checking your coat to swapping out your silverware to finding, with your blind trust, the perfect dessert wine, the hosts, bartenders and servers are prompt, gracious and knowledgeable. They transform a memorable culinary experience into a memorable experience, period.

Olio exterior, from this angle, Elaia sits in the house directly behind. Slideshow: Photos from Inside Elaia and Olio
Jennifer Silverberg
Olio exterior, from this angle, Elaia sits in the house directly behind. Slideshow: Photos from Inside Elaia and Olio

Location Info

Map

Elaia

1634 Tower Grove Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: St. Louis - Tower Grove

Olio

1634 Tower Grove Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63110

Category: Bars and Clubs

Region: St. Louis - Tower Grove

Details

Elaia and Olio
Olio cheese plate...$15
Scallops with bacon dashi...$27
Elaia tasting menu (per person)...$100

1634 Tower Grove Avenue; 314-932-1088.

Hours:
Elaia
5:30-10 p.m. Tue.-Sat.

Olio
Lunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Tue.-Sat.
Dinner 5 p.m.-midnight Tue.-Sun.
Brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sun.
(Bar open till 1:30 a.m. Tue.-Sat.)

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Olio's transformation from a 90-year-old Standard Oil gas station into an inviting wine bar is even more dramatic than Elaia's renovation. The refurbished façade of red and white tiles frames tall windows and the garage bay. The warmly lighted interior features exposed brick, with weathered wooden shelves adding yet more character. You can sit at the bar (which includes Olio's own, very small kitchen), at a counter that lines the front windows or in one of the freestanding tables in the garage bay. Beyond this, a newly constructed, architecturally unobtrusive corridor connects Olio to a staircase that leads to its dressier sister venue.

As you might expect, Olio offers a more casual and more affordable experience than the extravagance of Elaia, with a menu based around small plates meant to be shared: hummus and a charred-eggplant spread; Salume Beddu charcuterie; cheeses (some of them aged, others cultured in-house). A few dishes — pickled herring, a scallop ceviche — are more or less identical (or at least close cousins) to their Elaia counterparts.

But Olio has its own kitchen — or, to be more precise, its own rotisserie oven and hot plate. Each night brings a special from one of those appliances: Tuesday is lasagna, for example; Thursday is roast pork. When I visited, on a Saturday, the special was lamb shoulder, pungent with the meat's natural flavor and strikingly tender. The kitchen served this with roasted potatoes and some kale, and it needed nothing more.

Poremba's commitment to the Botanical Heights neighborhood extends beyond his paired restaurants. He has partnered with his pastry chef, Simone Faure, to open a patisserie called Chouquette across the street. Not unlike Poremba's cooking, her desserts range from unassuming but delicious — rice pudding flavored with rose water, pistachio and cardamom — to wonderfully over-the-top — "Chocolate and Coffee": a flourless chocolate cake with both chocolate ganache and a chocolate glaze (the chocolate, Mexican, is complex and a touch spicy). On the plate around the slice of cake are dollops of chocolate mousse and cappuccino mousse, as well as crumbled espresso beans and bits of chocolate-chip cookie. For the final touch, Faure sprinkles the cake with flecks of fourteen-karat gold. This last ingredient is for show, of course, and by itself might be unnecessarily audacious. As the final act of Elaia's epic, extraordinary tasting menu, it is earned.

Elaia and Olio is a bold venture, but saying so amounts to faint praise. This twinned newcomer must also be reckoned among St. Louis' very best restaurants.

Slideshow: Photos from Inside Elaia and Olio

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