The Toast of Kirkwood 

Pop on over to the Bubble Room

Call it a west-county take on the Loop's 609-and-U concept -- the simultaneous debuts of a new restaurant and its sidekick lounge. Or call it the sleek kids' table to Bellaluna's more formal dining room. Either way, the Bubble Room has come out of nowhere to become Kirkwood's bar du jour. The Trupiano family owners, who bill the spot a "fine desserts, Champagne, and sushi bar," were obviously right on the money when they thought the area could use "a place to have some sushi -- a place that's more a lounge than a bar, a place that feels a bit like New York," according to Bellaluna manager Adam Brouk.

It's a cosmopolitan concept that customers toss aside come 11 p.m. Saturday night in favor of beer, liquor, beer and liquor. During evening hours, though, the aimed-for ambiance rings true. The glossy, black-lacquer-and-leather Bubble Room skews a little older and a little frattier than its tagline might suggest. Water is served in plastic cups by a jaw-droppingly hot waitstaff to a Top 40 grab-bag soundtrack, as trolling singles prowl among larger groups of thirty- and fortysomethings celebrating engagements or taking a Friday-night office happy hour too far.

Thirty-two bottles of bubbly run from a $10 Korbel split to a $395 Krug rosé -- yes, the latter is expensive, but it might just be the perfect Champagne. The list carries lots of usual suspects -- Mumm, Bollinger and Louis Roederer. One delightful surprise is a Brachetto D'Acqui from Banfi, whose delectable cherry hue and dessert-friendly, berry-tinged flavor can be yours for $38. As with the wine list at Bellaluna, markups are uncharacteristically customer-friendly -- including, believe it or not, that Krug -- and plenty of effervescence is available in the $25-to-$50 range.

Compared to a $9 split of Veuve de Vernay, an $8 Champagne cocktail may seem like a rip-off, but all eleven of the latter -- from classics like kir royales and bellinis to house concoctions like the Marilyn Monroe (Champagne, apple brandy and grenadine) -- are mixed to sweet-and-tart perfection.

The fish -- a standard but broad roster of rolls, sushi and sashimi that can easily be made into a meal -- is surprisingly fresh and generously portioned, considering it's intended for lounge nibbles. Same can be said for the desserts, which are borrowed from Bellaluna's kitchen next door. Hefty portions of gooey bread pudding and raspberry cheesecake look almost gauche in these environs; better to go for the more understated, miniature trio of cannoli -- all the better for offering a nosh to that comely stranger in the khakis holding the frosty Amstel.

More by Rose Martelli

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