My friend Cyndy and I were undecided where to go for lunch this week. Would it be in nearby Clayton or downtown St. Louis? We flipped a coin and Lady Lucky sent us traipsing downtown to Hiro Asian Kitchen on Washington Avenue. I’ve rhapsodized over Hiro food before, but fretted over the trek downtown. But this day I was up for a metro-venture.
As it turned out, chef-owner Bernie Lee was in Southeast Asia. Our server said his return was imminent. That was good new. For weeks his food trekking escapades have enlivened my Facebook feed and I was ready to learn more. Get ready, St. Louis, Bernie will soon be unveiling the discoveries from his grand food safari.
Hiro: The Food Spa
Walking into Hiro is akin to stepping into an upscale spa designed to awaken the senses. Bernie’s artistic bent extends throughout the restaurant. There’s some serious zen going on from bar to kitchen and from menu to overhead light fixtures.
Cyndy and I selected several small plates to share, starting with Chicken Pot Stickers resting in a sweet ponzi sauce ($8) and a kale salad that the chef sent out for us to try. Now, I must confess that neither of us is a big kale enthusiast. I have long hoped kale would run its course like molten lava cake and be dropped from menus. But this salad got our attention. It was a medley of tender kale, broccoli, cabbage and nuts topped with a killer citrus lemon grass dressing.
“This is the best kale salad I’ve ever eaten!” Cyndy said in amazement. “Me, too,” I added with equal astonishment.
Our taste buds were still in shock, when the Braised Pork Belly Bun arrived. The little cloud pockets of porcine goodness are wickedly delicious and so easy to pig-out on. We savored every bite before sharing the final luscious plate: the Crispy Fish Sandwich, a Panko-dusted sole with Asian slaw and pickled cucumber on a brioche bun. The accompanying Tater Tots had a special in-house seasoning, that took the fast-food standby to new flavor heights.
Hiro is not just for lunch. There’s happy hour, the weekend brunch, as well as dinner. Happily, there’s plenty of parking on 14th street. Give this one a try.
Hiro Asian Kitchen and Lounge, 1405 Washington at N. 14th in Downtown St. Louis. Open: Brunch: Sat-Sun 11a-3p; Lunch: Tue–Fri 11a–4p; Sat. 12p-4p; Dinner: Tue-Thu 4p-9:30p; Fri & Sat: 4p-10:30p; Sun 4p-9p. Happy Hour: Tue-Sat 3p-6p. (You might want to call ahead rather than try to decipher this: 314-241-4476)