If any area restaurant deserves to be called a St. Louis institution, it’s Kemoll’s. Founded in 1927, this paragon of fine dining has been located downtown in the Metropolitan Square building for about 20 years, first in the lobby, then relocating to the 40th floor in 2009. We hadn’t visited since the move upstairs, so we felt it was high time to make another reservation.

The last time we dined at Kemoll’s, we remembered the food as superb, but the overall ambience was a bit dark. Well, the ‘new’ space is anything but. With a wall of windows overlooking the entire riverfront, the view was breathtaking. Most tables were situated near the windows, so there really was no such thing as a bad seat.

The menu at Kemoll’s was almost as expansive as the view from the dining room, with a plethora of classic Italian dishes available featuring steak, veal, chicken, fish and pasta. There were 11 items under ‘Antipasti’ alone. Chances are, if you’re in the mood for any sort of Italian food, there’s a sterling example of it on the Kemoll’s bill of fare.

We started with a small order of Kemoll’s signature Carciofi Fritti ($16), fresh artichoke slices battered, fried and served with a side of ‘Mrs. Kemoll’s special sauce’ for dipping. There’s a reason why this dish has been on the menu for so long. The crunchy batter and crisp artichoke pieces made for a perfect textural combination, and it was delicious even without benefit of the sauce (though we made short work of that, too!).

We’re suckers for risotto, so we had to try the Risotto Frutta del Mare ($37). It proved to be a heavenly combination of lobster tail, scallops and mussels, along with some baby spinach and saffron, all served on a bed of tender risotto, which was cooked to perfection. We were duly impressed with the amount of seafood in this dish. No corners were cut here.

We also partook of the Grilled Fresh Catch ($34), which on our visit was Chilean sea bass. We combined two of the available preparations and had ours blackened, and also served with lemon, butter and capers. The mild, rich, meaty fish was a good canvas for the tangy lemon, heavy butter and salty capers. The blackened seasoning was applied judiciously, ensuring that all of the disparate flavors married up extremely well.

There are plenty of desserts out there, and we’ve had quite a few, but we think Kemoll’s Italian Creme Cake ($7) and a glass of tawny port might be our new favorite way to wind up a meal—at least for now!

In many ways, Kemoll’s harkens back to a time when going out to dinner was, well, a big deal. From the tuxedoed maitre’ d and the attentive servers to the darkly ornate bar, the restaurant exuded a certain classy vibe that we don’t come across too much in this age of casual dining. Dining at Kemoll’s isn’t meant to be something that’s done every day. It’s definitely an event.

Kemoll’s • 1 Metropolitan Square • 421-0555

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