Outside, flames blaze within a set of stone cauldrons atop towering tripods. The vessels, known as dings, have been symbols of power in China since ancient times, when dynasties ruled the empire—making them a fitting façade for the Emperor’s Palace. Within the restaurant’s high ceilings, a dining room takes inspiration from the Suzhou Botanical Gardens, with tables sitting among waterfalls, ponds connected by bridges, and an open, four-sided Chinese-style pagoda with red and gold accents and pointed eaves.
Amid the traditional Chinese décor, aromas of sizzling meats and piquant sauces waft from an open kitchen, where chefs perform as they sear, broil, and stir-fry more than 200 dishes in full view of patrons. They craft traditional and American-Chinese dishes such as roasted peking duck and walnut shrimp, American-style charbroiled steak, sushi, and Korean-style kimchi. Contributing to the restaurant's international focus, seafood dishes incorporate such ingredients as New Zealand blue mussels and Alaskan crab legs complete with miniature snowshoes.
Helmed by chef Paul Kulkanjanatorn, who boasts 10 years in the raw fish-fileting industry, Fin Japanese Cuisine serves up a vast menu of authentic Japanese fare in a sophisticated and romantic setting. Gird yourself for a long night of vampire hunting with a hearty dinner bento box such as the Shogun Set, a collection of gindara miso, shrimp tempura, and sashimi ($18.95), or opt for tonkatsu, a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet mingled with katsu sauce ($16.95). Midday munchers can luxuriate in a lunch bento set, served with gyoza, house salad, rice, miso soup, and a helping of chicken, salmon, or steak teriyaki ($9.95).
Banzai the Sushi Place serves up fresh, fast, and affordable sushi in a casual atmosphere. Bright orange walls and metal dinettes greet mouths and project just the right amount of light to view the extensive menu. Kick-start your taste buds with miso soup ($1.49) or sweet-and-spicy chicken wings ($4.99). All rolls are made-to-order, guaranteeing fresh flavors and a live show. California rolls ($6.99) satisfy coast to coast, and the deep-fried soft shell crab roll ($8.99) is made with real crabmeat. For even more variety, try out red snapper ($2.59) or tuna ($2.99) nigiri, or settle in with a teriyaki plate ($5.99–$7.99), served with steamed rice and edamame and your choice of chicken, beef, or seafood.
In stark contrast to Yakuza Sushi Bar’s otherwise low-lit dining room, golden lights flood the surface of a full-length bar where chefs busily roll together a menu of sushi and sashimi. Drawing on ocean-fresh ingredients such as scallops, octopus, mackerel, and crab, they craft their own interpretations of Japanese classics; customer favorites include the crab-rangoon roll and the aptly named Fire roll, whose spicy tuna complements a drizzle of volcanic lava. Aside from the restaurant’s flagship variations of fish, tempura vegetables and chicken and beef teriyaki serve as the centerpieces for traditional bento entrees.
The chefs at Tomo Japanese Steakhouse cook filet mignon, shrimp, and lobster on their hibachis with teppanyaki vegetables and fried rice. Away from the heat, they build house sushi rolls with tuna and crab tempura and nigiri with red snapper and octopus.
The sea is all around at House of Thai. A tapestry of a merman-esque mythological character beams down on one table, a sea dragon slithers down a wooden post behind another, and seascapes float across the walls. Then, of course, is the menu, with its concise selection of maki, ranging from spicy salmon to a classic california roll to a saint louis roll filled with tuna, avocado, cucumber, pickled radish, and masago—all the foods that appear on St. Louis’s municipal flag. They also offer creamy curry, seafood-enriched fried rice, and daring dishes such as garlic and pepper frog legs.
A set of crimson, torii-style gates welcomes visitors to Kitaro Bistro of Japan, where tropical cocktails, inventive maki, and sizzling steak and seafood plates burst at the seams with umami flavor. Kitaro is a mix of traditional and modern influences, eschewing the de facto hibachi-steakhouse aesthetic while keeping many of its famed dishes. Industrial floor-to-ceiling windows and sleek, black leather booths share space with flat grill tops, which heat up filet mignon and mahi mahi at lunch and dinner. Chefs also prepare innovative fusion dishes such as bourbon shrimp and blackened-tuna sandwiches alongside familiar Japanese seafood, from hand-rolled maki to delicate nigiri.