Red-Hot New Restaurant in Downtown St. Louis

 In Feature, Food

Modern d̩cor and creative cocktails set the scene at Red Kitchen and Bar.

Your basic Old-Fashioned is a simple cocktail of bourbon, bitters and sugar. It’s as old as the hills—almost as old as the word “cocktail” itself—and sounds about as exciting as your typical hotel bar. But what if you traded the bourbon for Jack Daniels and infused the Jack with bacon? And instead of the sugar, you used maple syrup?

That’s what Edan Ballantine, director of food and beverage, has done at Red Kitchen and Bar in the Hyatt Regency St. Louis Riverfront. The boldly recrafted Old Fashioned is a perfect metaphor for the hotel bar’s concept. Ballantine merges creative mixology, small-plate dining and music in a setting featuring stylish tables and light fixtures you’d expect in a funky boutique hotel more than in a 910-room Midwestern high-rise. His influences range from a sake martini he sampled in Las Vegas a few years ago to the tapas bars he hung out in last summer in Barcelona to the artisanal pizzerias he frequented while he worked at the Hyatt Regency Phoenix before taking the St. Louis job. If those are your kinds of places, this is your kind of bar. Ballantine treasures new ideas. “I have been keeping a binder for the last four or five years of cocktail recipes that I’ve come across, or mixology philosophies that I’ve read about, so I utilized these resources in creating our menu,” he said. “The most popular right now is the Satori (which means “enlightenment” in Japanese), a blend of sake, vodka, fresh lime, mint, cucumber and sugar.” He prefers to use fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and infusions in his cocktails, evident in his experiments like muddling watermelon in a drink with pineapple juice and fresh jalapeño (called the Voodoo Chile).

The bar design, part of the overall $63 million Hyatt Regency Hotel renovation, extended into the kitchen, so the culinary team has toys like an in-house smoker and a pizza oven where it turns out thin-crust pizzas from a unique dough perfected during what Ballatine calls “a lengthy trial-and-error period.” However long it took, they’ve nailed it now. The rehabbed sound system has been getting a workout since the September 4 grand opening, the first of many special events featuring live music and guest DJs. Even when nothing’s scheduled, the spot draws a crowd that’s pretty hip, the sort of people who’d be curious to find out whether bacon works in a new Old-Fashioned (315 Chestnut St., Downtown, 314.259.3244).

Liz Reiff Sloan

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