One of St. Louis' most anticipated new restaurants opens its doors this Friday. Yellowbelly debuts its island-inspired cuisine and rum-forward beverage program with a soft opening on Sept. 14 featuring limited service. A grand opening is slated for Mon, Sept. 17 with celebrity chef and consultant Richard Blais in attendance.

As reported by Feast last December, the restaurant and bar – dubbed a “sea and spirits concept” – comes from the team behind Retreat Gastropub and On Point Hospitality: co-owner Travis Howard and co-owner and bar manager Tim Wiggins. The duo brought on Blais, a Top Chef All-Stars winner and James Beard Award nominee, to develop the food menu. Blais focuses on creative, skillful preparations of seafood, with a touch of his trademark molecular gastronomy style.

Yellowbelly fills a 3,000-square-foot corner space, with seats for 90 to 95 in the interior dining room and another 40 seats outside. Architect Nick Adams of St. Louis’ Mademan Design carried out the vision for the airy theme outfitted with modern touches. Highlights include white oak wood, a teal and white color scheme, and vibrant tropical-tinged murals by artist Noah MacMillan.

Day-to-day kitchen operations will be overseen by executive chef Jason Gethin, along with sous chef Kate Wagoner. Gethin most recently worked under Top Chef winner Brian Malarkey’s farm-to-table concepts as director of culinary operations. With Yellowbelly, he brings a wealth of experience while cooking in California back to St. Louis, where he grew up.

“Both Kate and I are coming from the west coast, and we’re used to cooking very light food. We feel that that our food is going to have very clean and bold flavors,” Gethin says. “I’m excited to bring our knowledge of seafood to St. Louis and really work with the local ingredients to see how we can pair seafood from around the coast to what’s grown in the Midwest.”

Highlights from the initial menu include a Tuna Prime Rib – a 40-ounce yellowtail tuna loin that has been meat-glued and wrapped in caul fat to a tomahawk beef bone, served with sautéed greens. Another homage to the food of the west coast is a double cheeseburger inspired by In-N-Out Burger. The upscale take features two four-ounce, dry-aged beef patties and Thousand Island dressing, getting a unique tropical twist from a side of Macar-Uni salad.

“Richard brings a bit of playfulness to the menu. We are here to broaden people’s expectations a bit,” Gethin says.

Additional selections from the menu include items such as Deviled Crab Fritters with passionfruit mustard; Wu Tang Clams with Portuguese sausage, Swiss chard and Chinese wine; and Thai Cioppino with lobster and coconut broth, cilantro, lime and jasmine rice.

Wiggins’ rum-focused cocktail program features drinks including Hopes & Dreams with Jamaican and Agricole rums, amaro, mango, soy sauce, carrot and lime juices. The signature Yellowbelly is made up of Puerto Rican and Jamaican rum, coconut, turmeric, ginger falernum, pineapple and lime juice.

Yellowbelly will be open seven nights a week for dinner.

Yellowbelly, 4659 Lindell Blvd., Central West End, St. Louis, Missouri, yellowbellystl.com

Mabel Suen is the St. Louis contributing editor for Feast.

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