You’ve got to admire a young guy, who goes off into the world to seek his fortune, learns to excel in the Japanese culinary arts, and then returns home to showcase contemporary sushi in his mother’s Ballwin restaurant. Chef Nick Bognar of Nippon Tei did all that.
His mother, Ann Bognar, operated the restaurant in a strip mall off Manchester Road, when Nick was a kid. He worked in the kitchen as a teenage while studying culinary arts in high school and Forest Park Community College.
In 2017, after working under some sushi masters at Uchiko in Austin and later in Cincinnati, Nick is back home. He’s now in his late 20s and turning out some of the best sushi in town from the attractively transformed space he knew as a youngster. His intention: to merge classic American sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine to form a contemporary sushi.
Sushi to Write Home About
We had made reservations at Nippon Tei, which one must do, or risk not getting a table. Yes, word has gotten out that Chef Nick is shaking up the St. Louis sushi scene. As part of his culinary shtick, you’ll find him sporting a hiachimaki headband—a stylized bandanna worn in Japan as a symbol of perseverance, effort and courage. For his effort, Nick was recently designated a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” semi-finalist.
The Fabulous Feast
Keeping the Family Culinary Flame Alive
There’s even more to come this month, when Nick opens iNDO, where he’ll be serving Southeast Asian-Japanese cuisine, including Thai. The connection is a natural one, since his Thai mother is a chef and his grandmother was a professional cook in Thailand. Today, his aunt owns Sushi Koi in the Central West End.
Look into iNDO
Nick’s new restaurant, iNDO, will open across the street from Olio and Elaia in the “Ben Poremba Culinary Complex” on Tower Grove Avenue. Incidentally, Ben, himself, is opening AO&CO Gourmet market on the corner, just a stone’s throw from iNDO.
Nippon Tei. 14025 Manchester Road (in strip shopping center); Hours: Tue-Fri 11:30a-2p; Sat 5p-10p; Sun and Tue 5p-9p. Closed Mondays. Chef/Owner: Nick Bognar.
iNDO. 1641 Tower Grove Ave. Scheduled to open: May 2019. Chef/Owner: Nick Bognar; Seats: 40 with 6-8 chef’s seats at counter.