PRESENTED BY SPLASH SEAFOOD BAR & GRILL
6587 University Ave., Windsor Heights 515-277-6627
David Baruthio, a native of Alsace, France, has cooked all over the world, from Belgium to Mongolia, with stops in Beverly Hills, Canada and the U.K. along the way. While his cutting-edge French menu offers a few straightforward presentations (yes, you can order French onion soup and steak frites), this is the place to order playful, multi-ingredient dishes such as a millefeuille of savory graham crackers, caviar and lobster gelée with white chocolate foam. Each highly original dish brings an unmistakably French combination of indulgence and exactitude.
1003 Locust St.; 515-248-1780
More than a decade ago, Centro energized the downtown Des Moines dining scene with urban-chic ambiance and grand-scale ambition. Its appeal endures: On any given night, the room swells with the animated buzz of a contented crowd. Some pile in for restaurateur-chef George Formaro and executive chef Derek Eidson’s satisfying and sincere takes on Italian-American food (Mama’s meatballs, red-sauced cavatelli and the like). Others seek out the more refined side of the menu, such as seared sea scallops with cauliflower agnolotti. The latter crowd should always check out the daily features.
801 Grand Ave., Suite 200; 515-288-6000
Step into the polished entryway, and the luxurious aura of steak and martinis sets the tone. With etched glass, leather booths and gleaming wood, 801’s dining room exudes Edwardian grandeur, and the servers possess poise and polish. Fortunately, the opulence of the meat measures up to the well-heeled setting. Although a fresh sheet of seafood specials arrives with the menu, 801’s true glory resides in its extravagant cuts of USDA prime steaks, from the velvety filet to the richly marbled rib-eyes.
2724 Ingersoll Ave.; 515-244-1314
Chef Joe Tripp made a name for himself at Alba in the East Village, and now he and Alba owner Jason Simon have teamed up to bring equally admirable food, albeit in a small-plates package, to Ingersoll Avenue. The flavor patterns are inspired by Tripp’s repeated culinary journeys to Southeast Asia (expect words like yakitori, nam jim and yuzu kocho to pervade the menu). Yet make no mistake: This is first and foremost New American cooking. The ingredients—as locally purveyed as possible—come first, and seasonality stars on every plate. The rustic-chic ambiance, complete with reclaimed wood from a beloved local farm, underscores the restaurant’s true-to-Iowa ethos.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
150 S. Jordan Creek Parkway,
West Des Moines; 515-457-2916
While a handful of seafood, pork and chicken entrees dot the menu here, it’s nearly impossible to pass up the steaks: lusty prime-grade beef, seared at 1,600 degrees and served on burn-your-fingers-hot plates. Equally irresistible are the indulgent sides, such as creamed spinach and jalapeño-sparked scalloped potatoes. Without exception, Fleming’s does wine right: Whether you want to splurge on a high-end bottle or go for something easier on the wallet, it’s nice to know that all wines are always served in peak condition at optimal temperatures.
Marlene’s at Sevastopol Station
1938 S.E. Sixth St.; 515-288-0898
While the ambiance here is a few baby steps above casual (with an open glare from the kitchen window that does nothing for the space), overlook that and you’ll have some of the most highly detailed, precise and imaginative food around. Chef Jacob Demars recently landed in Des Moines after cooking in restaurants in Denver, followed by stints in Michelin-starred kitchens in Chicago, and his pedigree is evident in every bite. The often-changing menu brings thrilling and unexpected multilayered dishes (e.g., ahi tuna with watermelon, blueberry-beer foam and shaved toasted hazelnuts) that masterfully cohere. Full menu available, or reserve ahead for a 12-course tasting menu.
Splash Seafood Bar & Grill
303 Locust St.; 515-244-5686
This is the city’s premier spot for high-end seafood. The fish and shellfish are jet-fresh, of course, but the real pleasures lie in the way chef Dominic Iannarelli and team get these delights to the table just-from-the-heat hot, yet glistening with a sparkle of the sea. The wine list goes deep, and cocktails are a draw here, too. For a more casual scene, enjoy the adjacent Splash Oyster Bar, with terrific raw oysters from New England and the Pacific Northwest.
Table 128 Bistro + Bar
12695 University Ave., Clive; 515-327-7427
Chef/owner Lynn Pritchard’s cuisine combines down-to-earth Midwestern sensibilities (Pritchard was raised on an Illinois farm) with the precision and refinement of a classically trained chef (he trained at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y.). Meanwhile, his wife and business partner, Sarah Pritchard, runs the front of the house with both graciousness and an eagle eye, and also oversees an energetic wine program. Consider heading here on a Saturday night, when the evening’s features offer ever-changing one-of-a-kind ways with lesser-known meats, such as elk tenderloin or guinea fowl. +
In the past, we’ve consistently rated Alba among the top three restaurants in town. However, this East Village venue has slipped a notch since its previous chef (Joe Tripp) left to focus on sister restaurant Harbinger (see page 7). Still, we have faith that owner and ace restaurateur Jason Simon will get his house back in order soon. Stay tuned.
524 E. Sixth St.; 515-244-0261;
This new-school venue located in an old Sherman Hill mansion makes a great choice for a romantic dinner. Find contemporary Italian and American food Wednesday through Saturday evenings; check their website for pop-us and other opportunities to dine here.
644 18th St.; 515-244-1353;
If your kind of Italian food is more about risotto and gnocchi than spaghetti and meatballs, then this refined-rustic venue in the East Village is your spot.
420 E. Locust St.; 515-243-1115;
Mediterranean and global flavors come to the table in a sweep of styles—from a simple charcuterie plate to molecular-gastronomy-style creations. Also of note: sparkling views of the Des Moines skyline.
1301 Locust St.; 515-244-0655;
Sam & Gabe’s and Sam & Gabe’s at the Lyon
While anything but a throwback, these stylish and contemporary venues have deep roots in the beloved traditions of a classic Italian-American steakhouse.
8631 Hickman Road, Urbandale;
600 E. Fifth St.; 515-421-9333;