Housed in an old Bywater double shotgun Saint-Germain (3054 St. Claude Ave., 504-218-8729) was conceived as a double-barrel proposition.
It is a wine bar and a modern French bistro under the same roof.
The wine bar opened in October, with a short food menu and a early taste of what the chefs here had in store.
The full picture of Saint-Germain debuted last week, adding its bistro menu and small dining room to the picture. In effect, it's a one-room bistro, with tables for just 16 at a seating, fused to a neighborhood wine bar.
The goal is to serve fine modern French cuisine. It is not the traditional bistro cooking of moules-frites, onion soup and coq au vin. Instead, Saint-Germain draws its cues from the next-generation eateries that are adding new verve to Parisian dining — inventive but still approachable.
The first menu, served a la carte, opens with crudo and sweetbreads and frisée salad dishes. There’s lobster with pici pasta and whipped garlic; dry aged duck; and loupe de mer, the Mediterranean sea bass. Dessert is “peanuts and cola,” a cola ice cream with honeycomb and roasted peanuts.
Saint-Germain was created by Trey Smith and fellow chef Blake Aguillard and Drew DeLaughter, who runs the front of the house. They share ties through past work at MoPho (Smith and DeLaughter) and Restaurant August (Aguillard and Smith). Smith was also chef de cuisine at Maypop, while Aguillard cooked at the ultra-modern San Francisco restaurant Saison.
Their plan for Saint-Germain is calibrated to balance the culinary ambitions of its chefs and the realities of making it in a dining scene already bursting with new restaurants. The idea is for the wine bar to help underwrite the bistro, while the bistro supplies the wine bar with its own menu of casual dishes on a different level from bar snacks.
“We try to look at it like it’s our house,” said Smith. “At the bar or the patio, it’s like the living room when you come over to visit. If you’re coming for dinner, that’s in the dining room and that’s a different experience.”
Saint-Germain is in the address that was previously home to the pizzeria Sugar Park. It looks unchanged from the street (right down to the old Sugar Park sign). Inside, there’s the long wine bar that leads to a large, gravel-covered outdoor space that feels as casual as any backyard hang.
As before, the wine bar serves its own related menu at the bar and in the backyard patio. That menu has house-made cheese with sourdough, the “Saint-Germain table salad,” an eye-catching platter of crudites, thick-cut fries with green peppercorn aioli and duck liver pate, finished with tart cherries and bitter herbs and bread.
Reservations are recommended for the dining room.
3054 St. Claude Ave., 504-218-8729
Sun.-Thu., noon-midnight, Fri.-Sat. noon-2 a.m.
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