Review: Billie | Jean
This is the newest Wydown eatery from Zoe Robinson and like the others (Bar Les Freres and I Fratellini), it offers haute cuisine in a very stylish space. The cozy interior is all black, with a long, narrow bar facing a banquette and a few freestanding tables beyond that. In the back is a rounded window seat. Service is formal and efficient.
The menu is small, high-end and very appealing with its blend of Asian flavors complementing classic cuisine. Starting off the meal in a welcoming fashion is the complimentary Scallion Pancake amuse-bouche. A small platter of the savory wedges are brought to be shared, along with ponzu-style dipping sauce. Do not pass up the Mahogany Glazed Spare Ribs ($16) if they are offered. These are unusually meaty and thick with an irresistible glaze of sweet, aromatic and umami flavors—think molasses, hoisin sauce and five-spice powder. In texture, they are soft inside and crispy outside.
The Mussels starter ($16) is delicate and delicious, with the bivalves sitting in thin, green curry broth with bits of lemongrass, Thai basil and lime leaf floating amongst them. An offering of Baked Quail Eggs ($17) was served in their cooking skillet with small roasted tomatoes still on the vine, dabs of eggplant relish and a generous plate of toasted brioche. It was quite filling but resembled a breakfast dish in my opinion (and the tomatoes, with their tough skin and brittle vines, were hard to eat).
The six entrees included a mushroom pizza, two fish dishes, quail and two meats. Lacquered Pork Belly ($26) was reminiscent of the ribs, but not as sweet and pungent in flavor. The pork was surprisingly lean and came with delicious medallions of Japanese yams, a sweet, starchy version of our sweet potato. Also on the plate were delicate, whole, baby bok choy. All around delicious.
The Grilled Swordfish ($32) was stellar. Lightly brushed with oil and lemon, it had great texture and flavor, especially with the addition of Castelvetrano olives. The chopped green Italian olives, meaty, buttery and sweet, spilled over the fish and around the crisp, pudgy fingerling potatoes that anchored the dish—a complete winner!
The Whole Roasted Snapper ($36) was beautiful to behold, a whole head-on fish roasted to yield crisp skin and tender flesh. It came with a separate bowl of sticky rice and a tiny pitcher of cilantro salsa verde to be poured over it. The sauce was pungent with some heat and should be used judiciously. Here again, a well-conceived and well- executed dish.
Billie | Jean (reputedly named for Zoë’s parents) is a real winner. The food and service are top-notch, and it has somehow managed to avoid the ear-splitting noise levels of many new restaurants. Plan ahead: reservations are necessary.
the scene | Chic, intimate bistro
the chef | Ny Vongsaly
the prices | $13-$17 starters, $18-$38 entrees
the favorites | Mahogany Glazed Spare Ribs, Mussels with Green Curry, Grilled Swordfish
food • ŏ • lō • gy
japanese yams | These root vegetables—technically not sweet potatoes—have very sweet flesh and also are known as mountain yams or satsuma imo.
sticky rice | A totally separate variety, this rice is its own grain and is naturally sticky when cooked, which is done via steaming, not boiling.
scallion pancake | A thin, savory pancake made with flour, sesame oil and chopped scallions, pan-fried and cut into wedges
7610 wydown blvd. | 314.797.8484
Pictured above: Honey- and soy-glazed roasted quail with hazelnut and golden raisin stuffing, butternut squash and brown butter
Photos: Bill Barrett