As the temperatures rise and the kitchen becomes just too hot for cooking, what's a more perfect dinner than sushi? For those a little squeamish about raw fish, many restaurants also serve vegetarian and smoked or cooked fish variations -- plenty of reason to get out of the kitchen and belly up to one of our favorite sushi bars.
Blue Ocean Sushi (6335 Delmar Boulevard, University City; 314-726-6477)
Our happy-hour critic recently gave Blue Ocean four out of five stars for this Delmar Loop spot's tasty rolls, serious happy-hour discounts on both sushi and drinks, and its "nerd paradise" atmosphere:
Play your cards right to get the most bang for your buck here, and save up to $3 on regular rolls and $5 on special rolls. With more than 50 different types ranging from simple (California) to exaggerated ("Take A Chance," served on fire), Blue Ocean doesn't skimp on options. To coincide the restaurant's theme, the names of several rolls reference nerdy themes: "Klingon Roll" and "Naruto Roll," for instance.... Our sushi came out quickly, artfully presented on a large platter for sharing. The restaurant uniquely utilizes sweet potato in several of its rolls, and the soft, sugary spud strikes an interesting note inside rice. The "Cardinal Roll" comes loaded, stuffed and topped with seafood and creamy sauce. -- Mabel Suen
Central Table (23 South Euclid Avenue; 314-932-5595) This 10,000-square-foot gorgeous reincarnation of the classic food hall offers an exquisitely diverse menu, running the gamut from wood-fired pizzas to bone marrow, imperial wagyu steak to seafood, and raw oysters to a beautiful sushi bar located in the center of the dining area. The thirty sushi options include some not-often-seen treats, such as octopus and sea urchin nigiri and sashimi. Specialty maki include the "Kamikaze" (spicy tuna, cucumber, avocado, yamagobo, kaiware sprouts, topped with albacore and ginger-garlic) and the "Magic Mushroom" (salmon, crab, avocado, yamagobo, enoki mushrooms, topped with chile mayonnaise, and lightly baked).
Tani Sushi Bistro and Area 14 Lounge (16 South Bemiston Avenue; 314-727-8264) Tani Sushi Bistro offers an extensive selection of sushi (there are currently 24 maki rolls on the menu) for lunch and dinner in Clayton. Dining here is an artistic experience, the tone set by a unique display of original Asian art curated by Heejeong Jung. For the late-night crowd, Area 14 Lounge, located just next door, offers an impressive sake selection and delicious Tani sushi for those in the know (there is no sign indicating the venue). Here, the dark space is populated with white furniture, overshadowed by a large, striking, back-lit image of a geisha in the main room.
Wasabi (1228 Washington Avenue; 314-421-3500) Wasabi now boasts four locations in St. Louis (Washington Avenue, Clayton, Town & Country and Warson Woods) and three more locations in Illinois, Kansas and Colorado. Yet the restaurant is decidedly not "chain-y." Each location meticulously handcrafts more than 50 sushi rolls, offering copious nigiri, maki, specialty hand rolls, gunkan, low-carb and vegetarian options. A full menu of authentic Japanese cuisine includes signature dishes, such as unagi don (smoked eel) and "Kani Salad" (spring mix topped with snow crab, avocado, tobiko and housemade dressing).
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