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Photo by Mabel Suen

In St. Louis’ Southampton neighborhood, a family of first-time restaurant owners hopes to introduce visitors to a variety of Asian flavors at MK’s Asian Persuasion.

The restaurant, which debuted in June, features healthy Asian-fusion food, fruit smoothies and more, courtesy of M.K. Vongnarath and his daughters, Maya Vongnarath and Lisa Bobo. M.K. Vongnarath previously owned and operated MK’s Rolls and Wraps, a food truck that rolled out in 2014 but was subsequently sold to make way for the new brick-and-mortar, full-service restaurant.

“The great thing about the food-truck community was being exposed to so many traditions and cultures,” M.K. Vongnarath says. “Being around all these different types of food inspired us to do Asian fusion. It’s not based on one nationality. We want to give everybody a bit of variety.”

MK’s Asian Persuasion fills a space previously occupied by Oasis Shisha Lounge, with a capacity for 90 guests inside and an additional 20 on its patio. The interior features a simple, modern design with black-and-white tables and chairs, a corrugated ceiling, bar stools and a few lounge seats.

“Growing up in Laos, I would help my mother make food in the village to take to the local monastery,” says M.K. Vongnarath, who started honing his cooking skills at an early age. “Since coming to St. Louis in 1981 after taking refuge in Thailand, I’ve done a lot of things such as karaoke and driving trucks – but there’s nothing better than owning your own business.”

In the kitchen, M.K. Vongnarath cooks a small menu of fresh appetizers and entrées. Options include everything from homemade crab Rangoon and egg rolls to build-your-own options such as a pad thai wrap. Protein options include chicken, beef, imitation crab, tofu and shrimp in fried rice, stir fry, a salad, pad thai or a wrap.

Additional specialties include Vietnamese pho and Thai gang phet, a red-curry dish with coconut cream, carrots, snow peas, baby corn, sweet basil, potato and your choice of protein. Laap is a Laos-inspired dish made with spicy seasoned steak, lime, cilantro, powdered rice, chili pepper, bean sprouts, green onions and mint, served with rice. All of those offerings sound like delectable options before catching Titus Andronicus from St. Louis Shakespeare.

To drink, guests can choose from Pepsi products, Thai tea, jasmine tea, black tea, coffee and fruit smoothies with the option to add boba for $1. They also can choose from smoothie flavors including piña colada, mango and “wildberry.”

“We want this to be a place the neighborhood can call its own,” M.K. Vongnarath says. “Give us a try.”

MK’s Asian Persuasion, 6417 Hampton Ave., St. Louis, 314-669-9036, mksasianpersuasion.org

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