Contemporary in St. Louis

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    Oceano Bistro
    Oceano Bistro gathers many of your favorite bistro-style seafood dishes under one roof. Convenient, if not exactly earth-shattering. Still, crab cakes feature little filler and a bracing lemongrass aïoli, scallops are exceptionally plump, and the menu usually features at least one or two species with which you might not be familiar. (Never fear: You'll also find salmon and Ahi tuna.) Appetizers are especially good, with creative, seasonal takes on such seafood standards as ceviche and seared Ahi tuna. Not in the mood for seafood? Traditional bistro dishes (a hanger steak, a pork chop) are also available.
    Olio sits in a brilliantly re-purposed service station in the McRee neighborhood. With the Midwest’s top sommelier Andrey Ivanov at the helm, you can expect a topnotch wine list, which Olio has, including some odd varietals and a great Rosé made just for them. But the cocktails, too, are first rate. The menu changes each month, and bar manager John Fausz pays homage to classic cocktails from every era. The drink list is an eloquent little history lesson on the origin of each selection. Olio has nothing on draft, but it does offer a carefully curated list of beers in bottles and cans. Be sure to order a bite from the small kitchen, which is visible from the bar. From snacks like marinated olives, toasted nuts and hummus to heartier fare like tartines and rotisserie chicken, the food is every bit as good as the drinks.
    Original SoupMan
    Seinfeld fans need no introduction to the first St. Louis branch of this national chain. Founder Al Yeganeh was the inspiration for the sitcom's infamous Soup Nazi -- an association that Yeganeh has disavowed. Still, the décor will remind you of the sensation that episode caused: There are poster-size newspaper articles praising Yeganehs soup; a TV set plays nonstop footage of Yeganeh on the news. That's a lot of hype, and the best soups (almost) justify it. Crab bisque brims with buttery sweet meat. Mulligatawny is complex and peppery, and yankee bean soup with bacon has a wonderfully smoky depth. Combos (soup paired with a salad or half of a sandwich) are a good deal.
    Close to University of Missouri-St. Louis' campus, Oscar's Café offers stylish dining and a menu not all that consistent with the café's outward appearance. Located on Natural Bridge Road, just a block west of where Florissant Road intersects, the fare at Oscar's is highlighted with nonstandard entrées and a variety of hot and cold tapas. The tapas menu includes oysters Rockefeller, a mushroom quesadilla, duck confit and spinach-artichoke dip served with pita chips. Entrées include sautéed veal cuts served with crab and hollandaise sauce, filet mignon charbroiled with a red-wine reduction and a fourteen-ounce New York strip steak served with garlic butter. Salads and sandwiches are also available, such as a "Strawberry Fields" salad with strawberries, spinach, oranges, pecans and blue cheese or the crab-cake sandwich served with chips or fries.

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