Ian Froeb's STL 100

Photo by Hillary Levin (Post-Dispatch)

1

Vicia

If you know Vicia foremost for its vegetable-forward ethos, I understand. Chef Michael Gallina and his team work wonders with produce: a chicken-fried carrot that makes for a convincing faux Chicken McNugget (complete with honey-mustard sauce); a beet steak, grilled in beef fat and served with a beet bordelaise sauce that turns the root vegetable's earthy sweetness into a compellingly meaty savor.

Vicia isn’t the best restaurant only because of the kitchen’s vegetable prowess, though.

At my most recent dinner there, seafood was the star — or, rather, seafood and vegetables, working in concert. A riff on cacio e pepe with luscious Maine peekytoe-crab meat and grilled cabbage. Crisp lettuce wraps that cradled plump, sweet diver scallops garnished with kimchi, pickled radish, buckwheat and a chile aioli.

Gallina smoked the abductor muscles from those scallops and then used them in the XO sauce that helped season a bowl of pork-fat fried rice. So, really, pork, seafood and vegetables were the stars of the meal. Lots of pork: belly, jowl, coppa and a sausage fanned across one plate with sauerkraut and a pear puree.

To experience such a wide range of Vicia's dishes, you don't have to order the tasting menu. The Farmer’s Feast offers a family-style sampling of whatever the kitchen considers the day’s best snacks, main courses and sides. At $55 per person for a generous amount of food, it is a tremendous value and might be the best way to dine here.

Vicia did end its lunch service recently, though with good reason. In November 2019, Michael and Tara Gallina opened Winslow’s Table in University City (in the former Winslow's Home space), serving a more casual version of their food for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday-Monday)

Last year's ranking: No. 1

Opened: 2017

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