Hotels at one time were the epicenter of fine dining and drinking. When visiting a new city, a traveler was well-advised to find a quality hotel if he or she desired to have the best meal in town. This still is the case in some high-end hotels around St. Louis, like the boutique Hotel Ignacio in Midtown.

The restaurant space on the ground floor of the Ignacio was originally the home of Cafe Pinxtos, a restaurant concept that was beset with a variety of ills it sadly never was able to overcome. Happily, the powers-that-be recognized the potential of the space and the weaknesses of the restaurant and retooled the eatery, reopening it as Baiku in the early fall. Sleek and modern, the space is striking and exudes a truly sophisticated, high-end feel, with low lights, clean lines and smooth surfaces. Want to impress that new certain someone? Take them here.

We started off our visit with the Scallop Carpaccio ($18) and an order of Potstickers ($8). The potstickers proved to be solid, straight-ahead examples of this small-plate favorite, while the carpaccio is a unique take on a normally beef-based dish; thin strips of scallops in a creamy sauce with roe, scallions and beets.

Of course, with 'Sushi' in the name of the place, it’s an imperative to try some of the available versions. We ran the gamut, ordering a Red Dragon Roll ($17); Spicy Tuna Roll ($8); and some Unagi Nigiri ($7). The Red Dragon, on the Specialty Roll list, is a modern, culinary take on the traditional roll featuring shrimp tempura and a spicy Champagne wasabi sauce, while the more traditional spicy tuna is offset by mild cucumber and avocado. While different stylistically, both are delicious, the rice perfectly cooked throughout. While the rolls were exemplary, the favorite dish of the evening definitely was the Teriyaki Beef Zaru ($12), a savory amalgam of tender meat, egg, fish cake, bok choy in a supremely flavorful soy ramen broth. All of this bounty was ably accented with glasses of Pine Ridge Viognier ($10), and silky Wandering Poet sake ($12), served cold.

Instead of dessert, we indulged in a couple of Uni Shooters ($10) to round things out. Served in a Champagne flute, these little beauties consist of a sake base with quail egg, sea urchin, tobiku and scallions. Smooth and with a refreshing salinity, these shots provide a great alternative to a sweet finish.

The restaurant still shares a kitchen with the adjacent Triumph Grill. We suspect this arrangement led to some of the service issues we experienced during the Cafe Pintos era, but these seem to be resolved—at least, they were during our time there. Overall, we found the Baiku service experience to be pleasant and trouble-free. Everything came out in a timely manner, and all of our myriad questions were answered.

It’s great to see this prime space finally getting the attention it deserves. Baiku Sushi Lounge is a fine addition to the Midtown scene, and a perfect start or finish to an evening in the Grand Center area or as a destination unto itself.

—3407 Olive Street, 896-2500,

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