One has to hand it to Ivy Magruder and David Marshall. The chef and general manager, respectively, had quite a job ahead of them when they took over the Saint Louis Art Museum's struggling restaurant, Panorama (1 Fine Arts Drive; 314-655-5490). Plagued by terrible reviews, bad press and financial difficulties, the restaurant needed a complete reinvention if it had any hope of surviving. The pair changed the menu and fine-tuned service, turning Panorama into a worthy dining destination.
My recent review of Panorama discussed the restaurant's much-improved lunch and dinner service. However, I also visited to assess its retooled brunch -- everyone's favorite museumgoing meal. Admittedly, I pine for the days of the buffet-style spread at the museum's old restaurant -- Panorama's brunch menu is a la carte -- but I found the offerings to be better than when I visited last year.
My favorite brunch dish at Panorama (it's also available on the lunch menu) is the croque-madame, a classic French griddled ham and egg sandwich. The thinly shaved ham is piled high on sourdough bread and topped with apples, sage and melted Gruyere cheese. Creamy béchamel sauce is drizzled over the top, and a sunny-side egg crowns the dish. The "Champagne Benedict" is another excellent offering. A poached egg, spinach, fresh mozzarella and champagne hollandaise sauce are served atop a buttery croissant. From the several protein options, I opted for smoked salmon to finish the dish.
I was less impressed with the basil cream cheese scrambled eggs. I found them to be drier than I would have imagined. The eggs were served with a small portion of bacon (why everyone insists on cooking bacon well-done, I will never understand). The accompanying red potato candied onion hash was a tasty twist on conventional hash browns, and I appreciated the selection of housemade jams served with the toast. The apple cinnamon-stuffed French toast bordered on too much of a good thing. The filling-to-toast ratio was about three to one, resulting in an over-the-top goofest. Two bites were about all I could handle. I suggest ordering one for a table of four so that everyone can have a taste without being overwhelmed.
The much-improved Panorama's brunch isn't perfect, but it's good for a day of museum-going. I'll certainly go back -- it's one more excuse to gaze at that stunning view.