Hot Eats: Sanctuaria
The new south-of-the-border sensation in The Grove.
Sanctuaria, the new tapas bar on Manchester Avenue in The Grove, wins points for both food and de?cor. It does the Day-of-the-Dead theme with so much panache and eye-catching embellishments (the mirror, the skeletons, the prayers) that after a couple of seriously good cocktails and “wild tapas,” I became a firm believer in the whole concept.
Sanctuaria’s executive chef, Chris Lee, along with Chef Anthony Collida, brings in Latin American and Spanish ingredients like chorizo, quinoa, guava and plantain but pairs them accessibly with familiar dishes (chiptole buerre blanc accompanies the crab cakes, such a St. Louis staple). For more adventure, go with the quinoa-stuffed peppers, sweetened by raisins and spiced by a sofrito sauce and the smoked paprika charred Colorado lamb chop is slightly sweet and topped with a warm pine nut and Bosc pear salsa. We also enjoyed the spicy garlic chicken, bite-size pieces lightly breaded and served with a zesty garlic tomato sauce. There’s a surprisingly wide diversity of cheese, and vegetarians will be happy with the many dishes tailored to them, including jalapen?o cornbread and stuffed eggplant.
Lee’s menu also suggests pairings with a few of mixologist Matt Seiter’s cocktails. They work. My only warning is about the potency of the pisco flight. Pisco, a brandy distilled in Peru and Chile from wine grapes, is reminiscent of grappain potency, though only the lesser-quality piscos are distilled from the leftover stems and seeds like grappa is. The three we sampled, Uvina, acholado and Quebranta, were billed as having vegetal, floral and earth tones, respectively. But honestly, you’d have to drink a lot of pisco to appreciate its finer points, and sharing one flight was enlightening enough for me for one evening; it varies from 76 to 96 proof.
Several patrons had clearly come to learn about mixology and cuisine from Sanctuaria’s experts. Some were there to socialize and experience a long, conversation-filled, tapas-noshing evening. The number of customers in a new space with such a challenging menu was surprising. It makes me think Gurpreet Padda and Ami Grimes (owners of the similarly popular Cafe? Ventana and the new Chuy Arzola’s) have a window into their customers’ souls. Or maybe that’s just the pisco talking (4198 Manchester Ave., The Grove, 314.535.9700).
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Photo credit: Photos by Jonathan Pollack