Coming Out of Hibernation—Very Slowly
Most of us are suffering from COVID hangover and eager to get on with our lives. I’ve begun eating out again. But first I check to see what safety precautions are being taken by the restaurant. Happily, one of my old pre-COVID haunts, Nippon Tei in Ballwin, ticked every box.
When I was there recently, I immediately noticed that hand sanitizer was located at the entrance and servers wore masks—properly—not like a chin hammock. What’s more, the Asian restaurant was only serving at 50% capacity, which meant tables were more than six feet apart.
I’m especially pleased with the new digital menus, that I’ve seen attached to a number of restaurant tables. When you place your iPhone camera over the coded sticker, the menu comes up on your phone. No fuss with bulky, dogeared menus. I do hope this innovative feature remains post-COVID.
Meet Chef Nick Bognar
After serving under acclaimed sushi masters around the country, Nick Bognar came back home and is turning out some of the best sushi in town. Bognar performs his magic from the attractively transformed space in Ballwin that he knew as a youngster working in his mother’s restaurant kitchen. Today he merges classic American sushi and traditional Japanese cuisine to form a contemporary sushi.
As part of his culinary shtick, you’ll find Nick sporting a hachimaki headband—a stylized bandanna worn in Japan as a symbol of perseverance, effort and courage. The young chef holds the distinction of being named a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” semi-finalist.
Look into iNDO
A few years ago, Nick opened iNDO, where he serves Southeast Asian-Japanese cuisine, including Thai. The connection is a natural one. 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.
iNDO is across the street from Olio and Elaia in the “Ben Poremba Culinary Complex” on Tower Grove Avenue.
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 and Tuesdays. Chef/Owner: Nick Bognar.
iNDO. 1641 Tower Grove Ave. Chef/Owner: Nick Bognar; Seats: 40 with 6-8 chef’s seats at counter.