By Sarah B. Smith
Artist and restauranteur Scott Clark is giving new life to the corner of Euclid and McPherson in St. Louis' Central West End. Clark, the former executive chef at Café Zoë in Clayton, recently opened Sapphire Pan Asian in what was once Zoë's Pan Asian at this location. Clark has built on the fine
gastronomic traditions of his former employer and added some wonderful culinary additions. "I like the cuisine. It's fascinating and it's exotic. There are so many countries and a huge
number of regional and local specialties with endless variations," says Clark.
The restaurant's atmosphere has changed a bit during its transformation. Clark took less than two weeks to give the restaurant a face-lift. Fresh paint and sound abatement panels were added, and Clark personalized the space by adding several of his own impressive art pieces.
Clark is continuing to experiment with his menu. "Coming into a situation like this, your inclination as an artist is to get rid of everything old and make it your own." Clark resisted that temptation. Instead, he has added his own creativity to traditional dishes, as well as tweaked some of those that were popular at Zoë's. "I love the uniqueness within those (Pan Asian) countries. The flavors are intense and fascinating; the challenge is to take the fascinating elements and make them into a restaurant quality dish."
The appetizer platter is a fitting start to the evening, featuring lobster wontons, pot stickers, shrimp summer rolls and sweet potato fires. At $14, it includes a selection of dipping sauces and is generously sized for sharing. Clark also offers a sushi selection each evening. Salad is served with sugared walnuts and shallots, and
features a choice of citrus-ginger or caramelized shallot vinaigrette.
Entrees are reasonably priced, with most ranging from $17 to $22. Clark's grilled chutney glazed chicken is an Indian inspired dish that includes an interesting combination of intense flavors. The chicken is marinated and then grilled with chutney, broiled to set the glaze, served with raita—grapes, cashews and a touch of mint.
Clark is particularly proud of the lacquered duck breast. It is served with an Indonesian spice sauce, sweet potato scallion cake, grilled pineapple with red curried butter. He reports that he receives comments like "This is the best duck that I ever had." The wok seared citrus glazed salmon comes with stir fired udon noodles and a mix of vegetables. The salmon is broiled, seared and glazed with sweet soy and citrus butter glaze.
Sapphire's beef dishes are some of their most popular. The lemon grass beef is thinly sliced, marinated, grilled, and served with a sauce that is tart and slightly salty. The glazed slow-cooked short ribs are very tender, with an intriguing flavor that Clark adapted from an old Chinese recipe. The braising process creates a subtle but delicious flavor.
The dessert menu was created with the help of Clark's wife, Jennifer, and includes an interesting chocolate orange pots de crème, a key lime tart (that hit the spot for me) and a dark chocolate flourless cake that is served with cinnamon ice cream and raspberry coulis. Desserts begin at $5.
While the lunch menu at Sapphire Pan Asian includes many items from their dinner selections, there are some refreshing additions. I enjoyed the grilled Thai curry chicken paillard sandwich with mango chili sauce, which is served with sweet potato fries. Sapphire Pan Asian's sandwich and luncheon salad items begin at $9.
While Sapphire offers a full bar, General Manager Steve Robinson assembles frequently changing flights of wine and sake. "Everything is hand selected," notes Robinson. A helpful set of tasting notes and background information accompanies the sake offerings. Sapphire has 15 different selections available by the glass, with prices ranging from $4 to $12. While the wine list is compact, it is well crafted and priced
reasonably. Their 3 oz. offerings, starting at just over $3, provide a great way to sample a number of selections.
While Clark reports that people still come in and say, "Where is Zoë?" his own creativity, friendliness and artistic flair are winning over people to the new restaurant every day.
Sapphire Pan Asian
4753 McPherson Ave.
St. Louis. MO 63108
Lunch: Monday to Friday:
11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday to Friday:
5:30 p.m. to close
Saturday and Sunday:
5 p.m. to close