A new restaurant in a beloved neighborhood is always exciting, but The Preston warrants excitement in its own right with creative, delicious food and well-crafted cocktails. Housed in the Chase Park Plaza in the Central West End, The Preston combines an elegant space with an affordable and accessible menu.

With sharable small plates, reminiscent of a Spanish tapas restaurant, all under $20, The Preston aims to have a dish and a cocktail everyone can enjoy by playing off familiar tastes in creative ways. Bryan Byard, concept chef, was brought to Chase Park Plaza to help reinvent the restaurants. When the idea of The Preston came to fruition, chef de cuisine Collin Smelser was brought on board to collaborate and execute the restaurant’s vision.

“It’s the quality of ingredients that makes good food,” says Byard. “Nothing crazy, just prepared right.” This might as well be the mission statement for The Preston because this idea is evident in every dish that came to the table.

Each dish is treated to do the ingredients justice. Nothing is over conceptualized, instead every flavor is carefully thought out for maximum effect. The Charred Shishitos ($6) is bound to be the new movie theater snack. The naturally smoky peppers were accentuated in flavor by bitter charred spots. This was balanced by a spritzing of rice wine vinegar and rounded out with a touch of sea salt, then served with a cooling and vibrant lemongrass aioli to temper any pepper that might bring a little too much heat.

The menu progresses nicely between House Crafted Breads ($9) given the presidential treatment by executive pastry chef David Laufer and a crispy Pork Belly ($13), whose flavor profile can best be described as a decadent version of Kung Pao; packed with umami flavor from the soy and roasted peanuts, counterbalanced with bright, freshly grated ginger and rounded out with a little chili oil.

The star of the dinner was the Charred Octopus ($10); easily the most tender piece of octopus to grace our city. The octopus had fresh ocean flavor with smoke and bitter accents from the char. Each morsel was paired with rich, nutty brown butter gnocchi, then finished with a little paprika vinaigrette and placed upon a creamy sunchoke puree to bring a little acidity and sweetness to the dish.

The drink program sees the same amount of effort poured into execution and ingredient focus. The seasonal cocktail menu is split into signature cocktails and modern classics. Imbibe in the perfectly referenced Big Trouble In Little China ($9) for a winter play on a dark and stormy. The Chinese 5 spice is a blend of winter spices added to the drink to bring about a warming sensation to pair beautifully with the ginger, lime and dark rum. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Try the Nancy’s Night Out ($12); bourbon infused with black tea and vanilla bean combined with locally made Big O Ginger Liqueur and a top-off of fresh grapefruit juice.

The Preston is perfect for those moments when you have no idea what to eat - not because nothing sounds good - but because everything sounds good. Whether you are looking for a drink and a snack or a full meal, The Preston can satisfy just about any craving.

The Preston at Chase Park Plaza | 212 N. Kingshighway | 314-633-3000 | chaseparkplaza.com/dining

Daniel Puma is Feast's editorial intern, recently transplanted to St. Louis from Oklahoma, who has a penchant for board games, a soft spot for dogs and a strong hatred of beans.