Hyssop Green Tea Palmer – Kuki Cha Green Tea, Hyssop, Lemon
Calumet Sourdough Flatbread – Fresh Butter, Tomato Tartare, Young Garlic, Tomato Skin Salt
Turnip Shell Tacos – Black Beans, Yogurt, Marinated Kale, Pickled Red Onions, Crispy Pork, Mushrooms, Salsa Verde, Hot Sauce
Naked Vegetables – Garden Pesto, Whipped Goat Cheese, Tahina Sauce
Koginut Squash – Green Apple, Feta, Green Goddess, Pecans, Seeds, Sunflower Shoots
Grilled Pears – Prosciutto, Sesame, Balsamic Vinaigrette
Oyster Mushrooms – Mushroom Vinaigrette, Preserved Citrus
Mixed Grain Stir Fry – Purple Daikon, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Winter Squash, Bok Choy, Green Beans, Kimchi
Pastured Chicken Thigh – Squash Mole
Milk Braised Beef – Shiitake Mushrooms, Horseradish
Grilled Beets – Grilled Vegetable Sauce
Creamy Missouri Rice – Oyster Mushrooms, Grana Padano Cheese, Roasted Sunchokes, Chestnuts
Simple Salad – Lemon Vinaigrette
Blackberry – Lavender Gelato, Honey Caramel, Chiffon Cake
Pear – Flourless Pecan Cake, Brown Butter, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Riesling, Young Ginger
Opened in 2017 by Michael and Tara Gallina, Vicia is widely considered St. Louis’ best Restaurant, and across 2.5 hours on Friday evening the kitchen showed why with intelligent Vegetable-focused fare clearly evidencing the Chef’s time at Blue Hill with Dan Barber.
Part of the Cortex Innovation Community, a rapidly gentrifying part of the Central West End not far from Ikea, it is amidst tall blades of Grass that guests will find Vicia low-laying on a slight slope, an expansive footprint spreading from foyer to dining room with an enclosed outdoor patio to the right and bar on the left.
Sleek without feeling overtly “hip,” the open kitchen and sizable hearth fitting inside a space with plenty of glass and good lighting, it is unsurprising that with accolades spanning from USA Today to Bon Appétit that Vicia strongly recommends reservations for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, though Lunch and “Midday Happy Hour” beginning at 11am and 2 o’clock, respectively, offer more casual walk-in service with a truncated menu.
Prone to seasonal change, and offering a la carte options in addition to a Tasting Menu and $55 “Farmer’s Feast,” it was opting for the latter that dinner was served as three family-style courses, the Vegetarian preference of two guests easily accommodated without affecting the enjoyment of others.
Focused on sustainability, an almost-zero waste ethos visible in items such as Salt made from Tomato Skins and Sauces that utilize Vegetable Tops, it was with a non-alcoholic Beverage in hand that course one was presented, hand-ground Wheat forming the base of Sourdough that eats soft and springy while no Grain at all is used to make Gallina’s signature “Turnip Shell Tacos” with vibrant Black Bean Paste and condiments including crumbled Pork, Yogurt and Mushrooms.
Tapping local farmers for bright yellow Butter and tanngy Goat Cheese, these plus the aforementioned “Salt” and Garden Pesto used to top Crudite plus the Flatbread, course one also included Pears wrapped in Prosciutto with Sesame and Balsamic, plus hybrid Kabocha-Butternut Squash forming a delicious alliance with Green Apples, Shoots and Seeds.
Almost entirely organic in sourcing, and happy to move at a pace where guests never feel rushed, course two arrived perhaps fifteen minutes after that which preceded it, a simply dressed Salad largely filler and Grilled Beets far too bitter to be enjoyed while dishes such as the Oyster Mushrooms served beneath creamy Citrus Dressing were nothing short of brilliant.
Treating the Omnivore with demi-size plates of Chicken and Beef, the Thigh simply grilled next to pureed Squash with a lot of smoke, fork-shredded Beef unfortunately found itself overwhelmed by Horseradish while Heirloom Grains and local Rice were each utilized well in the form of a stir-fry that leaned astringent and Porridge loaded with Cheese and earthy flavors.
Beginning to clean the Kitchen by 9:15am, the fire now little more than smoldering embers, Dessert arrived as a duo offering perhaps two-bites of each item, per person, “Blackberry” a bit compromised by florals but otherwise pleasant while Pears atop Pecan Cake and Dark Chocolate Ganache found their foil in fresh Ginger.