Review: The Preston

The Chase Park Plaza has totally revamped its fine dining restaurant, formerly Eau Bistro. Now called The Preston, it’s designed to be a more casual ‘gathering place’ but still with gourmet food. The heavy interior of old has been monotoned into grays and blacks for an appealing contemporary vibe. The bar area, especially, is inviting.

The kitchen team includes Collin Smelser as chef de cuisine and a capable David Laufer as pastry chef (don’t miss the bread board). The menu offers an array of nibbles like olives, cheeses and spreads, along with an impressive list of small plates that run the gamut from meatballs to strip steak. Dishes are savory, interesting and not fussy.

We started with Citrus Marinated Olives ($7) and Charred Octopus ($10). The olives were delicious, having been marinated in lemon juice instead of vinegar, so they had a milder acidity. The octopus was slow-cooked to tender consistency and charred for a smoky finish. It came on a piquant sunchoke puree, along with several doughy gnocchi doused with rich brown butter—an excellent and unique dish.

A salad of Warm Baby Kale ($9) was delicious, with tender baby greens served wilted and tossed with shallot rings, tiny cubes of still-firm squash and deepfried garlic slivers. The miso vinaigrette dressing was intensely sweet and salty. Scallop Chowder ($10) was another winner, but would have been more accurately called New England clam chowder with scallops on top—delectably pan-seared bay scallops.

Our heartier fare included Pork Belly ($13) and Bone-In Short Rib ($20), each tender and flavorful, but packed with fat. The rib, acutally, was too fatty (and not enough food for the pricetag), but came on a delicious butternut squash puree. The pork had been rendered of its fat to yield a generous pile of crisp and thick pork ‘fingers’ glazed with sticky sweet soy and chili oil. Its roasted Brussels sprouts were firm, crisp and fat-laden.

Even though this is a small-plates restaurant (with protein portions a meagre 4 ounces), with the bigger plates, you’re treated to a few accompaniments. The Grilled Lamb T-Bone ($20), although not much meat, had goat cheese spaetzle liberally scattered beneath it that carried the dish. Crispy, doughy and satisfying, they were dotted with exotic wild mushrooms, most notably enoki, and a fragrant rosemary jus. Be forewarned that the kitchen apparently loves salt. Every dish, from the salad to the short ribs, was noticeably salty.

The Barramundi ($15) was a decent-sized fillet nicely browned on top and presented with beautiful Royal Trumpet mushrooms. These are massive and filling. A sweet hazelnut vinaigrette was drizzled over all, with visible chunks of hazelnut adding an exotic element.

The pastry chef is especially talented, so give some serious consideration to indulging. My vote goes to the Chocolate Melt ($8), a dark chocolate shell with peanut butter ice cream and salted caramel sauce. Chef Laufer’s version of cheesecake, Ricotta Tart, also shines. The cream cheese filling sits in a hearty oat tart shell, with orange curd and bright raspberry coulis on top. Around the tart are orange supremes and fresh raspberries.

amuse bouche
the scene | Clean, contemporary dining /gathering place
the prices | $6 to $20 nibbles and small plates
the chef | Collin Smelser
the favorites | House-Crafted Breads, Citrus-Marinated Olives, Pork Belly, Charred Octopus, Chocolate Melt, Scallop Chowder, Ricotta Tart

Table-Preston_Smelser_15chef chat » collin smelser
pedigree | New England Culinary Institute in Vermont
favorite cookbook | The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller
favorite st. louis restaurant | Blood and Sand
most memorable dining experience | The 15-course tasting menu at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Vong restaurant in New York
guilty pleasure food | French fries

212 n. kingshighway blvd. | 314.633.3036

Photos: Bill Barrett