Best Local Chef - 2004
For nineteen months Atlas Restaurant has occupied a lovely space on Pershing, meshing perfectly with the sleepy-chic vibe of DeBaliviere Place. Nineteen months of fabulous piccolo fritto, nineteen months of perfect profiteroles. Nineteen months since San Francisco's loss became St. Louis' gain, when Michael Roberts, a graduate of the prestigious culinary school at the City College of San Francisco, blessed our city with his simple, French bistro-inspired cooking. His is a labor of love and for love: Roberts married charming St. Louis native Jean Donnelly in San Francisco; for her the restaurant is both a new adventure and a homecoming. Donnelly is the wine buyer and ever-gracious hostess at Atlas, creating a wine list and ambiance that complement her husband's culinary creations. And oh, what creations they are. The menu, which changes four times a year, reads like a lip-smacking laundry list of the freshest, most delicious ingredients available. Revel in the simplicity of a grilled pork chop with sweet peppers, green-olive tapenade and fingerling potatoes, or delight in the straight-from-the-farmer's-market flavor of French green beans, mushrooms and walnuts baked with Italico cheese and white-truffle butter. Desserts, which are all made in-house, get their own rightful place in the spotlight on Friday and Saturday nights, when Atlas offers an appetizers-and-desserts-only menu from 10 p.m. till midnight. Take a seat on the patio, order the marjolaine (hazelnut and almond meringue layered with crème fraîche and dark chocolate) and perhaps a snifter of sambuca. Listen to the cicadas sing into the night. Michael Roberts and Jean Donnelly, Atlas Restaurant and St. Louis: This is true love.