Hot Eats: Copia

This long-awaited, reopened restaurant forges familiar favorites with fresh takes for a successful return to the St. Louis dining scene.

 

The shuttered space at 1122 Washington Avenue became an eyesore for me; every time I walked past it in route to my gym, it was a constant, visible reminder of the ill-fated fire (an act of arson) that forced Copia Urban Winery to close in late 2007. This once-bustling wine bar and restaurant remained closed for over two years and had most speculating if the “coming soon” signs would really manifest into a resurrection. Maybe Copia’s owners were getting their ducks in a row while waiting for the economy to rebound, or the criminal act and ensuing legal matters delayed it more than I can comprehend. Whatever the reasoning, Copia finally reopened on June 25, with Chef Dave Rook still at the helm and the familiar menu and interior that made this urban winery a hotspot.

A Familiar Scene
Much of Copia’s appeal lies in its layout—a spacious front bar separated from the main dining room and open kitchen by a glass water fountain, and a wine garden and bar in the back that’s large enough to house a complete other restaurant on its own. A few updates were made to the interior, but the overall feel is the same and it embodies the Copia that St. Louisans remember.

Cornucopia of Flavorful Options
There were a handful of dishes that I clearly remembered and hoped would be on the menu once again. Thankfully, Chef Rook revived many classic Copia dishes—with a few tweaks—and also added some interesting new ones. But the arancini and the house-smoked bacon-wrapped shrimp were two appetizers that would make me pout if they had not been on the menu—the first is lighter than expected with five ping-pong-sized risotto and parmesan balls, lightly breaded and served over a basil tomato sauce; the latter features medium-sized shrimp wrapped in mango-chile honey glazed bacon and is as sweet as it is succulent. Flash-fried calamari also makes a return and diners will enjoy the plateful of delicately breaded and fried strips with lemon aioli. Crab cakes were a mainstay on the previous menu and appear again, but as one large, thick cake atop a gourmet take on coleslaw.

The entrée menu is a solid list of smoked ribs, strip loin, chicken and seafood, with a welcomed newbie of duck breast and confit, served alongside Maytag Bleu cheese potato cake and with a tart candied date and green peppercorn gravy. Ribs are cooked to perfection—the house-smoked spare ribs are literally a tower of dry-rubbed ribs, served with baked beans and tobacco onions. The slow-roasted prime rib had a nice finish and is served with roasted potatoes. Of course, options like roasted scallops over angel hair pasta and grilled chicken lasagna with baby spinach are also excellent choices.

 

647_330.jpgSlow-roasted prime rib with roasted potatoes, fresh vegetables, horseradish cream and au jus

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Photo credit: Photos By Jennifer Silverberg

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