St. Amand adds unique touch to Ocotillo dining scene SanTan Sun News

St. Amand adds unique touch to Ocotillo dining scene

May 16th, 2019 | by SanTan Sun News
St. Amand adds unique touch to Ocotillo dining scene
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By COLLEEN SPARKS
Managing Editor

St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails, a revamped restaurant in Ocotillo is attracting a crowd eager to sample its eclectic menu and luxuriate in its upgraded, cathedral-like ambiance.

The restaurant on South Alma School Road, south of Queen Creek Road in Ocotillo opened to an enthusiastic public on April 30 after its gathering to show off the new look to friends and family members on April 27.

Once called D-Vine Bistro & Wine Bar, owner Robert Coulson closed the establishment for a few months to redesign the interior and create a new menu.

The five-month renovation created a restaurant that pays homage to St. Amand, the patron saint of beer brewing, winemaking and bartending memorialized in a large mural and a smaller painting near the front door.

The modern cathedral-style interior features a larger, relocated bar and allows more light into the inside. An expanded patio offers more shaded area and seating. A closed-off, private dining area is also now open for parties.

Intricate, large chandeliers brighten up the dining area and add sophisticated charm.

Wallpaper resembling columns cover some areas of the open-floor restaurant that has wrought iron accents inside and outside. A wrought-iron guard rail surrounds the patio and wrought-iron wine racks on walls hold multiple bottles of wine.

Hefty wrought-iron door handles add to the theme. Large windows at the outdoor bar near the barstools can be opened, merging the interior and exterior. About 150 people can be seated on the patio and about 75 customers inside.

Guests pick from a streamlined menu with more shareable plates and fun, innovative creations from Executive Chef Ramon Rice, whose menu also includes a laundry list of cocktails, wines and beers.

“We’re trying to be ‘accessible upscale,’” Coulson said. “It’s a complete redo and it’s so much better.”

The reconfigured restaurant better utilizes space and has improved “feng shui” and “more flow,” he added.

Besides Coulson and Rice, the rest of the team behind the upgrades were contractor Ken Morrow, president and managing partner of One Way General Contractors, and Beth Katz, principal of KatzDesignGroup.

Coulson bought D-Vine Bistro & Wine Bar in Chandler 12 years ago and also owns D-Vine Bistro & Wine Bar Mesa. The Mesa restaurant remains the same and is not slated for a redesign.

The pared-down menu emphasizes shared plates more and focuses less on large entrees. “The day of the large menu” has passed, Coulson said.

Rice added: ”There’s a definite European influence. I put a little New World flair into things.”

Most of the food is made from scratch and diners can expect frequent surprises. Market fish is served as fresh and while supplies last, Rice said. St. Amand has prepared swordfish, halibut and Ahi tuna in recent weeks.

Octopus is a popular constant item on the “small plates” menu and it features olive oil, tomato, capers, crushed red pepper, red onion, celery, fennel, parsley, lemon zest and grilled bread for $17.

The octopus is slow-cooked until it is tender and has “citrusy flavors,” perfect for summer and great to pair with rosé, Rice said.

Another well-liked small plate is the sea scallop, which is three scallops with lemon, red chili, parsley, olive oil, champagne, vinegar, citrus and micro greens for $17.

“It’s got citrus with a bite of heat,” Rice said.

Customers are already craving Tuscan pork, another dish on the small plates section of the menu, a crispy, rosemary-roasted meat with pickled onion, roasted peppers, salsa verde, whole grain mustard and grilled bread for $16. The pork can be sliced into several pieces so diners can share it.

Another fan favorite is crispy chicken. The fried chicken has a lemon coleslaw, grilled bread, lemon ricotta, walnut and honey for $15.

Beet tartare gives vegetarians or anyone who loves vegetables another small plate to savor. It has roasted beets, red onion, capers, avocado, goat cheese mousse, olive oil, micro greens, bread and balsamic reduction for $13.

Diners can indulge in a “crispy mix of fried goodness” with the fritto misto on the “small plates” list, Rice said. Lightly fried calamari, shrimp, scallops, white fish and vegetables tossed with parsley, roasted garlic, arugula, homemade tartar sauce, salsa verde and fresh lemon make up this dish available for $20.

Risotto is also a small plate offering and it changes frequently. Recently Rice made a lobster risotto with a clam and rosé broth and fennel in it.

Another time he created what he called a “play on a German beer dish,” a risotto with beer, Gouda cheese and ham. The risotto “of the moment” took on a Nicoise salad feel with potatoes, olives, tomato, onion, sliced tuna and green beans another day at the restaurant.

The menu aims to encourage customers to take their time and savor the food and atmosphere at St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails.

“The whole idea is to get you to hang out and stay, have an experience,” Rice said.

Those who are in the mood for entrees often like the 20-ounce pan-roasted ribeye accompanied by butter-fried potatoes, charred shallots, roasted garlic and rosemary for $42. The chicken and gnocchi Basque style is an entrée with chicken breast, chorizo, marinated peppers, tomatoes, shallot, sherry, basil, potato and gnocchi for $24.

A grass-fed burger on a brioche roll with arugula, bacon, blue cheese, tomato, sautéed mushrooms and an onion and truffle sauce, accompanied by matchstick fries is also very popular at the restaurant.

Several salads are on the menu including one with marinated artichoke, orange, red onion, almond, arugula, olives, cherry tomato, celery hearts, Parmesan, citrus juice and olive oil.

To top off hearty and flavorful shareable dishes and entrees, St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails serves a raisin bread pudding with goat cheese caramel, accented with ice cream. Rice said he plans to add a chocolate brownie pot de crème, which he said is like a chocolate crème brulee.

Coulson praised Rice’s culinary creativity, expertise, experience and style.

“He has the cooking chops to be a real high-end chef,” he said. “He’s always been preparing food for the neighborhood. He’s always changing and thinking. We always try to be innovative.”

St. Amand also crafted a full cocktail list.

“We are a cocktail-themed restaurant,” Rice said.

He worked with local liquor distributors and their mixologists to develop cocktails for the new menu. St. Amand’s bartender, Ruben Gaeta, will keep the drinks customers enjoy and update the cocktails list over time.

Some of the “interesting, classic drinks” include the popular 1934 Cosmopolitan, which has gin, lemon juice, raspberry syrup and an orange peel, Rice said. He said the Old Fashioned, which has whiskey, Angostura bitters, as well as orange and lemon peel and Luxardo cherry garnish also “sells like crazy.”

Dr. Funk, named after a real doctor, blends dark Jamaican rum, absinthe, lemon juice, lime juice and grenadine poured into a Tiki mug with crushed ice.

Penicillin M&H has Scotch, honey syrup, ginger syrup, lemon juice and Laphroaig float to create a “tangy, lemon, ginger flavor” that is also smoky, Rice said.

Green Thumb is another fruity drink with The Botanist gin, Dolin Genepy, lime, kiwi Re’al and fresh basil. Boulevardier 1927 is a red concoction with whiskey, Campari, sweet vermouth and an orange peel.

A variety of red and white wines, along with drought and bottled beers, mead and cider are also available at St. Amand.

David Kitchin of Sun Lakes walked into St. Amand recently to check it out and he liked what he saw.

“I love the color,” Kitchin said. “The colors in here really go with the lighting. We’re eager to see the new menu. We’ve been watching it. I like the octopus. I’m a seafood guy.”

Angie Hamel recently tried St. Amand after having dined at the restaurant in its past life as D-Vine Bistro & Wine Bar.

“Great food great vibe!” Hamel posted on St. Amand’s Facebook page. “Can’t lie, miss some old things on the menu but everything we tried tonight was delish!!

Mary McCormick Morrow also recommended St. Amand on the restaurant’s Facebook page.

“Awesome!” McCormick Morrow posted. “Great atmosphere and wonderful staff!”

St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails also hopes to entice customers with its live music.

Coulson’s wife, Sharon Aebi, a jazz pianist, performs with bass player Selwyn Reams Wednesday nights. The two jazz musicians also perform earlier in the night Saturdays and then a DJ plays music after that from 9 p.m. to midnight.

On Thursday nights Paris James, a singer, songwriter and guitarist plays his mix of acoustic blues, soulful overtones and rock. Moon Dog sings and plays new country, classic rock and all-time favorite songs on Friday nights and every Tuesday is New Talent Night.

St. Amand Kitchen & Cocktails is open from 4 p.m. until whenever customers want it to close Tuesdays through Saturdays. The restaurant is located at 3990 S. Alma School Road. Information: facebook.com/StAmandChandler

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