Monday, January 9, 2012 / 9:40 AM
The secret to “The Gumby Show”? Claymation, claymation, claymation. The secret to a successful engagement? Cohabitation, cohabitation, cohabitation. The secret at Desserts on the Boulevard? As the real-estate flippers say, location, location, location.
The newly opened Desserts on the Boulevard café, wine bar, and sucrose dispensary lies along Lindell Boulevard, just a sneeze west of Vandeventer Avenue. It’s not hard to imagine the cross-current of SLU peeps, pre- and after-Fox, Moolah, and urban nomads of all stripes converging in droves at this sip-‘n-dish in the heart of Midtown. One gets the feeling one could sell steak tartare to card-carrying members of PETA at this corner; it’s positively bristling with upscale foot traffic -- the possibilities are absurdly boundless.
Catina and Deverick Miller (he is a former co-owner of the shuttered Whiz-Tech internet café on Locust St.) are the owners of DotB, a dimly lit lounge featuring chillaxin’ music on the PA, a cellar with 275 different wines, and a menu of savories, sweets, and fun cocktails.
The opening of the restaurant and the finalizing of its menus have been delayed, explained Ms. Miller, due to a combination of contactor-related issues, and problems with several chefs who didn’t get with the program, if you will. DotB’s official, inaugural executive chef is Neil Al-Kobri, who labored at Clayton’s Coastal (formerly Mosaic Bistro). Other staffers include Josh Harvey, who has cooked at Coastal, Niche, and Taste; and the curiously named Cinnamon Brother, formerly of Sidney Street Café.
The menu of savories features soups, salads, flatbreads (the flatbread revolution continues…), and sandwiches. Al-Kobri is excited about a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich with duck confit he plans to add to the menu soon.
The entrees include your basic duck breast, roasted chicken, pan-seared salmon, filet medallions, and a shrimp pasta.
Then there are the small plates, which, to us restaurant hags, seem to have displaced entrees as The Way You Must Go, My Son. They lean toward the rich, with creations like the Crab Napoleon, citrus-marinated jumbo lump crab layered with cream cheese and puff pastry; beef carpaccio; mussels made with chili-infused vodka and spicy tomato broth; pan-seared scallops with prosciutto; and a mac and cheese fit for an epicure, starring shrimp, bacon, and truffle oil.
The caramelized Brussels sprouts (above left), reposing in a savory mulch of bacon, Vidalia onions, and Balsamic glaze, are as delicious as any vegetable in that backdrop would be. (This is how you get kids to eat Brussels sprouts, yes?). The lobster sliders (above right) feature generous hunks of claw meat tossed in a bright, vivacious tarragon/citrus aioli and served on toasted, sweet Hawaiian mini-buns; they conjure thoughts of sunnier and seashore-ier climes.
Desserts on the Boulevard is open, but as of now, the dessert menu is still in flux. Al-Kobri said he and his kitchen cohorts are cogitating as fast as they can, and a new dessert menu should be forthcoming shortly (in the interim, all cheesecakes and cakes are from Hank’s Cheesecakes). Featured items that will appear on the new menu include a fudge brownie with ice cream, a bread pudding, a sweet potato pie, several cheesecakes, a tart, a molten chocolate cake, and a deconstructed chocolate cake featuring cake crumbs, almond puree, milk-chocolate ganache, and powdered chocolate, said the chef.
The bread pudding (at left) is strongly reminiscent of French Toast, with a delightful orange/vanilla caramel drizzle and that bitchin’ Serendipity Salty Caramel ice cream melting down the dessert’s facades. The warm brownie/ice-cream standby features a dense brownie topped with a layer of ganache, Serendipity vanilla ice cream, and a generous, football-shaped fingerling of milk-chocolate ganache, just for good measure.
The bar offers original champagne, craft, and dessert cocktails like the “Baobing,” sweet peach and ginger liqueurs served over crushed ice and topped with champagne; and the “Bee’s Knees,” which features Cat Daddy Moonshine, Barenjager honey liqueur, strawberry syrup, and lemon juice, shaken and served as a cold martini. The bar endeavors to make as many of the fruit juices and syrups in-house as possible, one of the staff mixologists said, and the massive wine list was assembled with an eye for food pairings.
DotB has something – or someone, we should say – really special, that you won’t find anywhere else. Singular employee Alicia “Aunyae” Williams (right) breaks from her hostess duties to play delightful, soft, babymaking R&B songs on the baby grand piano in the front window, and accompanies herself in a soulful voice. She’s a treasure.
In addition to Aunyae’s warbles of wuv, the café boasts a growing line-up of live performers who make with the jazz, ragtime, and even the occasional belly dance.
With coffee drinks, patio seating during warm weather, free WiFi, and a party/banquet room, DotB is multitasking as fast as a new restaurant can.
Will the late-night traffic begin to detour to this romantic little enclave of pleasures? Will the forthcoming menu of sinful sweets do justice to a café with “Desserts” in its name? They seem to be off to a fine start.
One thing is certain: Based on empirical observation, this is the sort of dreamy-creamy, lovey-dovey, aphrodisiacal dessert-and-wine spot that cannot conceivably alter the trajectory of a date in a negative direction; guys, take note – she will dig this joint.
Desserts on the Boulevard
Mon-Thu, 11 a.m.- 11 p.m., Fri-Sat till 1 a.m., Sun 2 to 10 p.m.
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Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect that Corey Bishop is no longer the general manager at Desserts on the Boulevard.
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