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Like a fine Bordeaux, Atlas grows richer and more noble with each year. The menu is timeless, with attention paid to the quality of ingredients and meticulous preparation rather than pizzazz and the latest trends. Dishes change seasonally, but you'll certainly find excellent lamb and pork dishes as well as a fish of the day and vegetarian selections. The steak frites, a staple, is the best in town.
Restaurateur Zoë Robinson Pidgeon and her go-to chef Ny Vongsaly have brought a touch of Paris chic to the tiny Clayton confines of their new venture, Bar Les Frères. Though the cuisine is resolutely old-school French, the vibe is fun and the décor (including sixteen pairs of deer antlers looming above the bar) downright funky. The brief menu includes such beloved classics as lobster bisque (brimming with actual lobster meat), duck confit and steak au poivre. The highlight might be the Toulouse-style pork sausages, aggressively seasoned: a perfect blend of pig, salt and spice.
Bistro 1130 brings Mediterranean-inspired cuisine to the shoppers of Town and Country Crossing, albeit with varying degrees of authenticity. Executive chef Karim Bouzammour, a Moroccan native, infuses the menu with specialties from his homeland; Bistro 1130 is at its best when he embraces this rich, North Africa culinary heritage. In particular, the lamb couscous, served in a tagine with assorted vegetables and chickpeas, is the embodiment of authentic Moroccan cuisine. Likewise, do not pass up the fresh sardines when available. These mild, little fish are packed with fresh herbs and drizzled with lemon juice -- an authentic Mediterranean delicacy. Also noteworthy is fig-and-pine-nut-stuffed pork, as well as the excellent phyllo-dough-wrapped goat cheese turnover. Weather permitting, opt for the patio -- Bistro 1130 has a prime, lakeside location.
Gerard Craft strikes again. The acclaimed young chef has reinvented the venerable Central West End French restaurant Chez Leon (which relocated to Clayton) as a casual mecca for your favorite French dishes, from the cheese-crusted crock of onion soup to a killer cassoulet. The prices are reasonable, the dishes unpretentious. The emphasis here is on good ingredients prepared with skill and care rather than showy technique. Consider the meltingly tender beef short ribs or a tender piece of salmon paired with braised leeks and lentils. Appetizers include very good pork ptés. The beer list is excellent.
Eddie Neill introduced St. Louis to multicourse prix-fixe meals of rustic foods from the south of France, and he continues to offer great value in this romantic, candlelit space. Choose from among country-style ptés, hearty stews and Mediterranean seafood. Outdoor tables are available when the weather permits.
The second edition of Leon Birnbaum's French restaurant affects a sleek, very dark look that can, at its best, transport diners to a place where their only concern is haute cuisine. Classic French dishes abound, from escargots to foie gras, steak frites to canard a'lorange. The experience is not cheap - several entrées cross the $30 barrier, and two diners, with tip, tax and wine, will easily break $100 - but there is a prix-fixe option: three courses for $40 (plus a supplemental charge for a few dishes).
In France crêpes are street food, but in Clayton they get the upper-crust treatment at this cute, bustling breakfast-and-lunch spot. The crêperie is particularly popular with female baby-boomer townsfolk in search of a quick, relatively cheap bite. And who can blame them? Nearly twenty varieties of sweet and savory crêpes (ultra-thin, ultra-light pancakes with an eggy-sweet flavor) come stuffed with endless, gourmet-quality combinations of roasted vegetables, Havarti cheese, mesquite-grilled chicken, creamed spinach, pineapple, smoked salmon, jams, bananas or classic Nutella. Soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches and Belgian waffles are available, but you don't go to Ted Drewes for frozen yogurt, do you?
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