One of the cardinal rules of decorating is that small rooms look bigger if painted a light color. Billie Jean has violated that biggly (as POTUS might say). The petite space, that once housed a yogurt shop is now painted black, inside and out, ceiling and floor with only the tables shrouded in white and topped with a fern sprig. But the tall ceiling, large window, and framed black/white art make the space work.
In case you blinked and missed it, the 28-seat restaurant is snuggled between Sadie’s Alterations and Protzel’s Deli on Wydown. It’s as though owner-restaurateur Zoe Robinson wanted to create a darkened hideaway known only to the culinary cognoscenti. . . .
But Word Has Leaked Out
This week my group of Dining Women wrangled a reservation to the new hot spot. We approached the shadowy entrance like we might a speakeasy in the 1920s to be admitted upon recognition.
But once inside, rather than feeling claustrophobic, I was pleasantly relaxed by the elegant decor and warm welcome of staff and Zoe, herself, who was greeting diners and seeing to their wellbeing. I felt like something special was about to happen and I wasn’t disappointed.
A St. Louis friend, Barbara Moore Ottolino (once a youngster in my Rolla neighborhood) had graced me with a dining gift card. As I perused the menu, I was immediately attracted to the baked quail. I had a culinary flashback of eating game birds with friends years ago—he shot ’em; she served ’em. We had to pick a few pieces of buck shot from the meat, but that just showed it was freshly acquired.
At the last minute, though, I put my nostalgia aside and switched to the smaller plate of duck spring rolls and the root vegetable salad. My table mates agreed to share the ribs and eggplant.
The first plate to arrive was a stunning complimentary dish, a Yellow Fin Tuna Crudo, artistically delivered along with a platter of thin slivers of fried bread.
I would go back again tomorrow, if only for the ribs, which come with a smartly folded stack of slightly moist cloth napkins. Nice touch. But there are a lot of good reasons to put BJ’s on your special list. The place has the feel of an intimate 20th century cafe, but with a cutting edge menu. Zoe and her team have put great heart into creating the ambiance of another era as well as the preparation and service of fine food. The little things show—even in the dark..