Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Billie-Jean Is Now Open in Clayton, Showing Zoe Robinson's Signature Style

Posted By on Tue, Jan 9, 2018 at 6:08 AM

click to enlarge MAHOGANY-GLAZED SPARE RIBS | SUZY GORMAN
  • Mahogany-glazed spare ribs | Suzy Gorman
If you're a fan of the romantic siblings Bar Les Freres and I Fratellini, you might want to take a look at their sexy little sister: Billie-Jean (7610 Wydown Boulevard, Clayton; 314-797-8484), the seventh restaurant for owner Zoë Robinson, opened its doors two weeks ago.

The Mediterranean-inspired menu harkens back to Robinson’s first restaurant, Café Zoë, a much-loved (and much-lamented) Lafayette Square spot that featured contemporary American cuisine with Asian influences. Executive chef Ny Vongsaly has even updated a few of the dishes from that first venture, such as the mahogany-glazed spare ribs.

The small menu is big on flavor and presentation and designed to evolve as the kitchen gets established.

Baked quail eggs are served in elegant copper pans topped with roasted tomatoes on the vine, eggplant relish and microgreens with brioche toast. Whole-roasted red snapper is prepared simply with lime leaves and a cilantro salsa verde. A lemongrass and lime leaf pork dumpling soup is rich with Asian flavor.

click to enlarge BAKED QUAIL EGGS | SUZY GORMAN
  • Baked quail eggs | Suzy Gorman

A simple, yet sophisticated cocktail menu offers fun, modern twists of old classics.

The "Seoul 75" features Korean grapefruit soju (vodka) in lieu of Champagne, alongside gin and lemon juice. The "Oaxacan Old Fashioned" swaps whiskey for the expected tequila and mezcal. "Manhattan’s Rebellion" is slightly sweeter than a traditional Manhattan with rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, cappelletti and orange bitters, while the "Old Pal" offers a spin on the negroni with rye whiskey, dry vermouth and cappelletti.

click to enlarge MANHATTAN'S REBELLION | SUZY GORMAN
  • Manhattan's rebellion | Suzy Gorman

A brief, but broad, wine list focuses on New World wines from California, Washington, Oregon, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina and Australia. Beverage program manager Will Brawley describes the selection as “fun stuff off the beaten path.”

Brawley is especially excited about the sipping menu, which features exclusive small-batch, artisanal spirits for enjoying slowly before, during or after a meal. The carefully curated menu includes aged tequila and mezcal, madeira, Japanese single malt whiskey and other singular offerings. “We hope the menu will inspire people to explore things they haven’t heard of our previously tried,” explains Brawley.

As with Robinson’s other restaurants, the food, drinks, ambiance and service work together to create a transformative dining experience. “I don’t just want to feed people,” explains Robinson. “I want to take diners somewhere for the evening, to make them feel like they’ve experienced something.”

The 32-seat restaurant is located just down the street from Robinson’s two other restaurants (she sold off her third, Bobo Noodle House, to an employee in 2015). “I had coveted the space for years, begging the landlord to sell,” admits Robinson. “There’s a window in the back that is very New York. I knew I could create something around that and make it feel like it felt to me.”

click to enlarge BILLIE JEAN | SUZY GORMAN
  • Billie Jean | Suzy Gorman
That window inspired a warm, contemporary design Robinson describes as “dark, mysterious and sexy.” The walls are lined with prints from acclaimed New York modern artist Robin Motherwell and celebrity photographer Harry Benson. Soft spotlights shine on each table to create intimacy and a private little world.

But while the Michael Jackson song of the same name might be a suitably seductive namesake, Billie Jean is named in tribute to Robinson’s parents — her mother Billie and her father Jean — just as Bar Les Frères (“little sons” in French) and I Fratellini (“the little brothers” in Italian) are named for her sons.

Billie Jean is open Tuesday through Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.

Scroll down for additional photos of the restaurant and menu.

click to enlarge BILLIE JEAN | SUZY GORMAN
  • Billie Jean | Suzy Gorman

click to enlarge WHOLE-ROASTED RED SNAPPER | SUZY GORMAN
  • Whole-roasted red snapper | Suzy Gorman

click to enlarge LEMONGRASS AND LIME LEAF PORK DUMPLING SOUP | SUZY GORMAN
  • Lemongrass and lime leaf pork dumpling soup | Suzy Gorman

click to enlarge THE "OLD PAL." | SUZY GORMAN
  • The "Old Pal." | Suzy Gorman


Follow Sara Graham on Instagram and Twitter at @engagetaste. E-mail the author at sara@engagetaste.com.


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