Best Chain Restaurant - 2004
Readers' Choice: Lion's Choice
Sekisui is the best kind of chain restaurant -- the kind that doesn't look, feel, taste or act like part of a chain. That's partly because, as far as St. Louis is concerned, it's one-of-a-kind: While the Sekisui franchise began a few years back in Memphis, where a handful of outposts now operate under the name, the South Grand Sekisui is St. Louis' one and only. Sekisui's expansion to Gateway country two years back wasn't just a bottom line-bloating business move, but also a homecoming of sorts. The man who started Sekisui in Memphis, Yoshitaka Ishii, first dipped his toe into the restaurant biz during his college days at SLU, when he worked at Robata of Japan. But back to the chain discussion: Sekisui doesn't go all forced-fun-atmosphere and sauce-smothered-food on you like so many chain eateries do. The fish does the talking here, and its smooth, plump, decadent texture says it all. Sekisui boasts some of the best sushi in town. In addition, the robata grill turns out rarely seen Japanese curios, from chicken gizzards to quail eggs to beef tongue. If only all of corporate America tasted so good.