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The new venture from restaurateur Zoë Robinson and chef Ny Vongsaly, who have collaborated at I Fratellini and the late Zoë Pan-Asian Café, is the perfect restaurant for its location across the street from Washington University: an inexpensive but stylish noodle restaurant. Vongsaly draws upon the familiar flavors of Southeast Asia - lemon grass, curry, fish sauce - sometimes, as in the excellent beef pho with butternut squash and red curry, in unexpected combinations. The spare ribs and pork spring rolls are dynamite appetizers, and the lemongrass beef over chilled sesame noodles is a standout main course. Delivery available during dinner hours.
Death in the Afternoon is a culinary oasis set in downtown's idyllic Citygarden. The weekday lunch spot is the brainchild of Adam Frager and TJ Vytlacil of the members-only restaurant and bar Blood & Sand. Death in the Afternoon features impeccably presented soups, salads, sandwiches and snacks. From kimchi and pickled vegetables to house-made pastrami served on a pretzel, the menu offers something for everyone's palate. The mahi mahi sandwich is spectacular: The fresh grilled fish is so moist it's as if it were poached. Served with Meyer lemon and dill aioli, pickles and fennel salad, it's an excellent lunchtime treat. The restaurant's signature entree is the tonkotsu ramen, a bowl of mouthwatering pork broth teeming with housemade noodles, mushrooms, pork loin and belly, a soft-boiled egg and garnished with black garlic oil. It's comfort in a bowl. And lest the kids romping in Citygardens' fountains have all the fun, Death in the Afternoon serves a rotating selection of cotton candy for dessert. It's a whimsical end to a perfect meal - a great way to kill an afternoon.
This cavernous restaurant in the Delmar Loop describes its cuisine as "pioneering Asian fusion." Fans of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine will likely describe the dishes as defanged. Few dishes provide much flavor, let alone the vast array of vibrant flavors that any one of the aforementioned cuisines have to offer. Fortunately, Ginger Bistro is located only a short walk or drive from restaurants that serve the genuine article.
True to its chilly blue decor, the Ice Kitchen strives for a polar level of cool. Physically, this bar may be located in the heart of Westport, but the black-clad, uber chic patrons might make you feel like you're stuck in the Matrix. The menu consists of small and large plate "continental fusion" cuisine, including Peruvian, Asian and Greek-inspired tapas, and the bar boasts the largest martini and vodka catalog in St. Louis, with over 100 vodkas to choose from. By night, this young urban professional scene becomes a raging hip-hop and R&B dance party fueled by live DJ sets.
Located inside a former Oberweis in Creve Coeur, Kim Cheese's second location follows the Korean-Mexican fusion trend that started in Los Angeles and swept the nation. You can order tacos with Korean barbecue meat (rib-eye steak, pork or chicken), topped with tomato, onion, corn and cheese. Burritos come stuffed with either steak or chicken; both have fried rice, studded with hunks of scrambled egg. The most intriguing dishes might be the “burgers,” which are actually rib-eye steak sandwiches with cheese and pungent kim chi. Don’t neglect to add a side order of the french fries, which are terrific.
Lona Luo and Pierce Powers got their start peddling silks and bags to Soulard Market-goers. When a food stall finally opened, they decided to take advantage of Luo’s culinary background and start selling handmade dumplings in the side. Word spread of their delicious offerings, and eventually the husband and wife team developed enough of a fan base for a larger venture -- a brick-and-mortar storefront for Lona’s Lil Eats in Fox Park. The pair describes their cooking as Asian comfort food, and elements of Thai, Chinese and Japanese cuisine are all represented at the fast-casual restaurant. Diners choose from a few protein options (beef, chicken, turkey, tofu, shrimp), decide how they want it served (platter or wrap) and select various sauces and accompaniments. The barbecued beef with smoked vinaigrette and jasmine rice, wrapped in giant rice paper is a must try, along with the chicken and lemongrass pesto tortilla. First-time diners are encouraged to order the comprehensive “Five Star Platter,” which represents a large chunk of the menu. All of the proteins are served with two “staples” (such as stir fried wild rice or rice noodles), two side dishes and all of the sauces. Of note is the “Lona-Q”, Luo’s version of a sweet and savory teriyaki. And don’t leave without trying those famous handmade dumplings. They are what put the restaurant in the map.
A close cousin to the Sekisui on South Grand, but Sekisui Pacific Rim resembles that sushi joint only in name. Tonier in look and more expansive in menu, SPR excels at Asian-inspired appetizers and at entrées like conch salad, lobster ravioli and wasabi Gorgonzola fettuccine tossed with monster-size hunks o' shellfish. SPR's sushi is plenty good, but you really want to seek this place out when you're jonesing for your seafood cooked and fabulous.
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.
Asian fusion is in the restaurant's name, but these dishes represent only a tiny portion of Yagu's lengthy menu. In fact, Yagu offers everything from Thai tom yum gong soup to Malaysian red curry to "Surf & Turf" to teriyaki to sushi served with a flashing, multicolored light. (Really.) The best dishes tend to be the most basic, including the Malaysian red curry, sweet and mildly spicy. Soups are also excellent, including pork dumplings in a rich, smoky miso broth.
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