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The owners of Tani Sushi Bistro in Clayton have opened one of the cornerstone restaurants of the new Mercantile Exchange development downtown. Like Tani, Takaya New Asian offers nigiri sushi, sashimi and over-the-top Americanized rolls. (The “Oh My God” roll comes to your table engulfed in flames.) Unlike Tani, though, Takaya fails as a restaurant in nearly every respect. Much of the menu features dubious takes on the already played-out Asian-fusion trend. There are sliders with bulgolgi beef, and fried cheese sticks classed up with a light tempura breading. The sushi is sloppily prepared, only one of several missteps from a careless kitchen that might mar your meal.
The café within the terrific, playful Citygarden sculpture park rises above the cliché of the usual museum restaurant. The dinner menu offers restrained - and reasonably priced - portions structured so that you can build your own tasting menu or just stop in for a snack. The dishes, from local restaurateur Jim Fiala (the Crossing, Liluma, Acero), feature Mediterranean flavors and as much locally sourced produce as possible, including the "50-Mile Salad," which takes its ingredients from a 50-mile radius. Look for lots of good seafood (oven-poached striped bass) and pork and lamb dishes. A selection of grass-fed, organically raised steaks will please carnivores.
The Thaxton Speakeasy strives to be an out-of-the-way oasis in the middle of downtown St. Louis. Located in the basement of the epically beautiful Art Deco Thaxton Building, it requires patrons to bypass the inviting glass windows and make their way to the clandestine alley entrance - you'll need a password for a discounted cover, but it's conveniently located on their website. Take a minute to devour the visual delights in the lobby before descending to the bar below. The dance floor is in the middle of the room, and the crowd is exceedingly jovial - we've got to assume it's those cherry moonshine cocktails. Pro tip: Unless you grew up swilling the stuff, that maraschino cherry marinated in moonshine will knock you flat.
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