Clayton, Missouri, has a new hotel and a new restaurant to boot.
Café La Vie is now open inside of the Le Méridien hotel, serving European-inspired fare, cocktails and plenty of gelato. Chef Michael Frank is at the helm of the restaurant in his first executive chef role. Previously, Frank has served as chef de cuisine of Farmhaus and as executive sous chef at Grand Tavern at the Angad Arts Hotel.
"It's challenging, it's rewarding, it's exciting, it's gratifying, it's hard, it's confusing at times," he says. "It's a lot of different things, and it's one of those things where I think you just hold on for dear life and hope you don't fall off."
The menu is small, featuring dinner served after 5pm and shareable plates served between 4 and 7pm as a part of the hotel's "sparkling hour," which focuses on bubbly beverages. Starters are light, featuring a little gem salad, French onion soup, salmon confit rillettes and marinated olives.
The ethos of the menu is all about using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients in dishes that are inspired by European bistros. Local producers that Frank works with include Hemme Brothers Creamery, Buttonwood Farms and Volpi Foods.
The menu features a tight but impressive selection of entrees. The house burger is done up with bordelaise, a special sauce, comté cheese, fried shallots and pommes frites and is served on a brioche bun. The Faroe Island salmon is served with rock shrimp, grapefruit, toasted pecans, celery root and fine herb hash browns. Other entrees on the menu include elegant versions of mussels and frites and a roasted chicken, which Frank is especially proud of. The semi-boned chicken is served with chestnut agnolotti, butternut squash soubise, crispy Brussels sprouts and medjool dates for a dish perfect for fall.
"[It's] just a real comforting, warm, hearty, delicious roast chicken dish that I'm really happy with," he says.
Given the seasonality of the menu, Frank says that you can expect a change of pace early next spring when everything green begins to sprout.
The restaurant and bar also offer a bespoke cocktail menu, with spins on classics like the Negroni and a Corpse Reviver No. 2 and creative creations like the Le Reve, which is sparkling wine served over a glass of seasonal sorbet. There are also a number of drinks on a secret menu that can only be seen through rose-colored glasses, quite literally, due to the coloring; make sure to ask your server for a pair.
The restaurant is running on limited dine-in service, including for its brunch service, which includes dishes from avocado toast to a pork belly pain perdu tartine. Masks are required when not seated, and all social distancing measures are being followed in the meantime.
Café La Vie (inside Le Méridien St. Louis Clayton), 7730 Bonhomme Ave., Clayton, Missouri, marriott.com/hotels/travel/stlmy-le-meridien-st-louis-clayton