Avenue Restaurant is one of the most recent eateries to open in Clayton, but it’s not exactly new. It’s the latest project from the folks behind Pomme Restaurant and Pomme Cafe & Wine Bar. Located just down the street from the former locations of those two favorites, Avenue aims to bring the best of both of them under one roof. We think it succeeds quite nicely.

If an upscale yet casual atmosphere is your thing, Avenue should be on your short list to visit. The interior is rife with homey accents like rough planks on the walls and plenty of dark woods, giving it a cozy, bistro feel, but with more than a touch of elegance.

While there are plenty of fine entrees available on the Avenue bill of fare, it’s certainly possible to range across the small-plate offerings available and put together a pretty fine spread, as we ably proved. The section on the menu labeled 1st Courses has plenty of noshables to choose from. We opted for the Gnocchi ($9) and the Two Pates ($9) to start, accompanied by the Kale Salad ($8) and a cup of savory French Onion Soup ($6). The gnocchi is made in the French style, utilizing flour instead of potato. These tender little dumplings are subtly accented with butternut squash and sweet snap peas. The two pates also were simple and delicious: duck with pistachio, and pork with prosciutto with some mustard and fruit alongside to cut through the richness. Some have said that kale as a menu trend is on the way out, but perhaps those naysayers haven’t had the kale salad at Avenue. Much more than just a bunch of greens on a plate, this version combines kale with faro, sugar snap peas, roasted apples for some sweetness and depth, and walnuts for crunch. Needless to say, this salad has flavor and texture to spare. Always a favorite, the French onion soup is a straight-ahead take on this classic combo, with plenty of Gruyere on top.

Of course, we had to delve into the bigger plates just a little bit. Luckily, one of our favorite cold-weather French dishes, Cassoulet ($26), currently is on the menu. This hearty country dish of beans, duck, sausage and pork is guaranteed to warm you up, no matter what Mother Nature is doing outside. Since we’d already been grazing quite a bit beforehand, we were a touch concerned about ordering up such a robust offering, but the serving proved to be just the right size to satisfy without overwhelming. FYI, it pairs extremely well with a dram of Rittenhouse Rye Whiskey ($7).

The menu also has a small section of Pomme Classics for those who want to revisit favorites like Rainbow Trout Almondine and Eggplant Involtini. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served nightly, and brunch is offered Saturdays and Sundays.

For those fans who mourned the closing of Pomme Restaurant and Pomme Cafe & Wine Bar, Avenue will certainly turn those frowns upside down.

-- 12 North Meramec Ave., 727-4141, avestl.com.

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