STL - comprehensive sushi list
While not holding a candle to the sheer number of sushi bars in coastal cities like LA, it may surprise some of you to know that there are over 40 places to get sushi in St. Louis. I've been to almost all of them, and hope to go to the newest one soon. (Tsunami opened yesterday, with a chef from Miso.) Here's a list; I will be grateful if anyone points out mistakes or additions:
Where to get sushi in the St. Louis region
Bento Sushi (Town And Country)
Blue Sea (St. Peter)
Chi (Formerly Cha Yoon Elixer and Tea Bar) (CWE)
Crazy Sushi (St. Peter)
(3) Drunken Fish (three locations; Westport, LaClede’s Landing, and CWE)
Fuji Sushi (Chesterfield)
I Love Mr. Sushi (Olivette)
Ichiban (Creve Couer)
Kitaro (St. Peter)
Little Tokyo (St. Peter)
Lucky Sushi (St. Peter)
Modai (U City east)
Nippon Tei (Ballwin)
Nobu’s (U City)
Nori Sushi & Japanese Grill (Edwardsville, IL)
(2) Oishi (Creve Couer?) & Oishi Steak House (Chesterfield flood plain)
Osaka (Creve Couer?)
(2) Sansui (Two locations; CWE and Warson Woods)
Sakura (St. Peter)
Sapporo (Ellisville on Manchester)
Seki (U City)
(2) SekiSui (South Grand) & SekiSui Pacific Rim (Clayton)
(3) SenSai (three locations; Kirkwood, Webster Groves, Clayton)
Shogun (Bogey Hills in St. Charles)
Shogun (Totally different than above; chain out of Jonesboro; South County)
Tachibana (Creve Couer)
Tokyo Sushi (Sunset Hills)
(2) Wasabi (two locations; close to downtown and Clayton)
Just Opened 11/12/07
Busch’s Grove (LaDue)
Ritz-Carlton lounge (Clayton)
Rue 13 (Near downtown; across from Wasabi)
Sub Zero Vodka Bar (CWE, across from Drunken Fish.)
Japanese Gardens (O’Fallon, IL.)
Available but not featured
Several Chinese buffets
Japanese Teppenyaki Steak houses not listed above; (i.e., Kobe, etc.)
Take Out in Grocery stores
Schnucks; multiple locations
Dierbergs; multiple locations
Pearl Express (Food stand in arcade in U City)
Bumping this up to say we tried Seki's tonight and were completely underwhelmed. Part of that was personal taste - for instance, I don't want any fake crabmeat in my shrimp tempura roll, and I don't want my salmon and avocado roll to be enormous and overflowing with tobiko. Part of it, though, was the food quality. The edamame was overcooked. The fish was reaaaaaally fishy tasting, even the tuna, which just shouldn't be. One of the things we got was a tempura/sashimi combination and one of the three kinds of sashimi was octopus. Seriously? Octopus? When I think sashimi I think of fish that melts in the mouth. Octopus is more like "chew for a week." And when I'm only getting eight pieces of fish, I really don't want three of them to be octopus. The rolls weren't very solidly constructed, either; half of them were falling apart when they reached the table.
The meal was $80 including tip, which I thought was a lot for some pretty mediocre sushi. And charging for drink refills? Seriously?
If I was disappointed here, where should I try next?
My favorite is Wasabi, either in Clayton or downtown. I have never been impressed with Seki at all and it is really expensive without the quality to back it up.
I have noticed you on chowhound a lot and you might try the forum on stlbites.com for posting questions too. Many people post on there who are very involved with food and restaurants in STL as well as very well traveled and could be a help to you in finding new favorites in STL.
I have heard that as well, of course anyone can sell if they just make rice balls and slap some fish on top....it is a matter of doing it to some sort of standard and not just to say you have it, and charge an arm or leg for it. Anyone have thoughts on Halibut...have been leary of trying it have heard it is somewhat of a tough fish for sushi?
I should let you know that I'm easy to please but difficult to impress.
I forgot three, none of which I've been to:
St. Louis Fish Market (LaClede's Landing)
A forth San Sai, which I mispelled above (Maplewood Commons off Hanley)
Sake (O'Fallon, IL)
My top five?
Sekisui on S. Grand (when Kenji's not "under the weather")
Nobu's (but only at the sushi bar)
I've had some great meals at Wasabi downtown, Miso, Oishi on Ballas, Sansui in Warson Woods (definitely not San Sai), Crazy Sushi, and Chi (Cha Yoon). Some I've been to several times when in the area. I've been to many of the others only once, and saw no reason to go back.
Worst (You didn't ask for it but I couldn't help myself...)
Shogun in St. Charles
re: Richard 16
Just curious as to your thoughts of Sansai. For the price, their sushi is a great value. I know some people feel that you HAVE to spend alot of money to eat sushi or it will not be good. That is definitely not true. I frequent the Webster Groves location and have never had a bad experience. Their miso soup is the same most other places I've been, the fish is the same quality. Having been in the restaurant industry before, I know for a fact that most of the "finer" sushi restaurants in St. Louis buy the same types of fish from a trio of food distributors in town. The difference in sushi between Sansai and say--Misos, or Drunken Fish, are just a few spices added in or on top of the rolls--which Sansai for the most part has available at their counter for the customer to add themselves. The atmoshere is wonderful, clean, with friendly service. Combine that with getting a full sushi dinner (your choice of 10 pieces of nigiri, miso soup, and a choice of one of three hand-tossed salads), for about $12.00, to me that is a bargain. And lest we not forget the news story concerning Drunken Fish and their employees handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands, sometimes saving a few dollars IS the better way to go.
I've been to three of the San Sais and have been underwhelmed each time. None of them were horrible, it certainly is the least expensive, and a couple of times I've been back when the other restaurants were closed for the afternoon break and I had a sushi jones. As I say, I'm easy to please. And I like their crunchy orange salad. Their miso soup? Eh.
While there are those main distributors there still can be difference in quality. What is the buyer willing to settle for? Having had been in the restaurant business for a while I know that it is highly advisable to stick with a produce or other company even if another company has a temporarily better price. The distributor gets to know the restaurant's buyer and vice-versa. The distributor's seller gets to know what to send to who; what they are willing to settle for and how much they spend. Those that demand the best and reject lower quality wind up with better fish. Guess where the other stuff goes?
More: How do they thaw the frozen fish? How long has the fish been around? Tuna is better after a couple of days -- do they use before it's at its best? Do they exclusively use Yellowfin or do they also have Bluefin (!) or Big Eye? If they have toro, do they know the difference beteen otoro and chutoro, the two most common types? If so, do they know how to cut it to reduce the toughness of the connective tissue? Does the restaurant buy the preseasoned mackeral or buy it raw and season it themselves? The list goes on and on.
One of the biggest differences between sushi bars is the quality of the sushi rice -- I'm sure you know that the rice is the basis of sushi. Rating a sushi bar without judging the rice is, IMHO, like rating a steak house without judging the quality of the meat and its preparation. And there San Sai has been exceptionaly mediocre. Rice that is squished together, poorly seasoned and mixed. And the rice to neta ratio is too high.
I went to the Kirkwood location when it was new; it was slow and the manager was walking around and greeting. That's cool -- it showed an interest on his part. But it came out during our brief conversation that he didn't even know the rice was supposed to be seasoned. I've been back and it's very inconsistant.
I hadn't heard that story about Drunken Fish. Ew. Where did you read about it?
re: Richard 16
You make excellent points. What I know about Sansai is that their tuna is only Yellowfin. It is used after approx. 2-3 days of being shipped. From the times that I have watched their sushi chefs preparing fish-they for the most part understand the proper and best ways to cut the various fish.
As for the rice--ABSOLUTELY...it makes all the difference in the world. You must have the right amount of rice, with the correct amount of water in the rice cooker. If you are off on the amount of water by even a 1/4 to 1/2 cup----customers such as ourselves will know it instantly. Same for the amount of sushi vinegar. That is usually where the inconsistencies arise between restaurants, or for that matter, different locations of the same company.
Their yellowtail is a premium Amberjack Loin, that could be exchanged for a much less expensive grade and quality of yellowtail, but in a refreshing change of pace for this industry---Sansai refuses to do so.
The story about Drunken Fish aired on either Channel 2 or channel 4 about a month ago. It was actually a story on restaurants in the STL and their health inspections. Drunken Fish was one example they used. Reporters aired their health inspection from earlier in year, citing violations such as improper food temperatures, bug issues, employees not washing their hands regularly and handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands. The owner was questioned off air, he said that these things would be taken care of expeditiously. Reporters went back recently with hidden cameras, and it showed the same thing happening---employees handling ready to serve food without gloves on. I will never walk in their door again, and I have passed the word to as many people as possible.
Lastly, I am a firm believer in giving a company not only complaints, but praise and suggestions as well. have you ever contacted Sansai to give any positive/negative feedback? If a company cares, they will listen with open ears, and hopefully take action to improve. But, as with any company, in any industry, no one can fix what they don't know about.