In the end, it will take three different heavy hitters from St. Louis’ culinary scene to replace Zoë Robinson’s trio of celebrated restaurants along Wydown Boulevard in Clayton.
Ben Poremba, the chef and restaurateur of the acclaimed Elaia, Olio and the Benevolent King, announced Friday he will open Bar Moro in the former home of Robinson’s Billie-Jean at 7610 Wydown. Bar Moro will feature Spanish and more broadly Iberian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Poremba said he has been mulling the Bar Moro concept for a long time, and the Billie-Jean space lends itself to the idea.
“It’s small and it’s very, very sleek,” he said. “But, you know, with Spanish (cuisine), you don’t really need to have too many involved ingredients. It’s just pretty straightforward.”
Poremba envisions three ways diners can experience Bar Moro. They can drop by the restaurant for drinks and snacks like oysters on the half shell or slices of jamón ibérico and other cured meats. For those who have visited Spain and want to recreate something like that experience, there will be such classic dishes as croquettes, a Spanish tortilla with black truffles and gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp). Finally, there will be larger plates inspired by Spanish regional specialties.
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For many dishes, Poremba said, “certain iterations were already worked out at Elaia, and we served them for quite some time.”
One example is a rice porridge cooked in squid ink broth with chorizo and grilled octopus. Bar Moro will also feature conservas, or tinned seafood. The beverage program will highlight Spanish and Portuguese wines, with a focus on sherry.
Poremba is not planning a major overhaul for the space, though there will be some new furniture and artwork. He aims to open Bar Moro by early October.
Poremba’s announcement completes the turnover of longtime St. Louis restaurateur Robinson’s footprint on Wydown Boulevard.
Last month, the team behind Vicia and Winslow’s Table opened Bistro La Floraison in the former home of Bar Les Frerès at 7637 Wydown.
Meanwhile, Louie owner Matt McGuire is transforming the former I Fratellini space into Wright’s Tavern at 7624 Wydown.
Robinson opened I Fratellini in 2001. Bar Les Frerès followed in 2012 and Billie-Jean in 2017. All three restaurants closed during the pandemic.