Fans of James Beard Rising Star Chef semifinalist Nick Bognar’s expertly prepared sushi at Nippon Tei, his family’s longstanding Ballwin restaurant, can now enjoy his artistry in St. Louis’ Botanical Heights neighborhood at iNDO, which showcases Bognar’s take on modern Japanese, Thai and other Southeast Asian cuisine.
The restaurant, which debuted in June, features seafood, small plates and larger-format hot plates for sharing, as well as a chef’s counter that offers sashimi, nigiri and multicourse dinners. Bognar works with general manager Zac Adcox, co-manager Mike Brown and chef de cuisine Mark Silva.
“We’ve been wanting to bring the kind of Asian food we do to the city for a long time,” Bognar says. “The concept is chef-driven and really centers around food I like and want to cook. The flavor profiles are rooted in the food my family’s been cooking for years – Thai and Southeast Asian food, with an homage to techniques I’ve learned throughout the years.”
Filling the space that previously housed Good Fortune, iNDO involved St. Louis’ Let’s Create Space for interior design: a modern, minimalist look accentuated by lush plants throughout the dining areas and homages to Thailand – referencing Bognar’s half-Thai, half-American heritage, as well as the name iNDO, short for Indochina (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam). The spacious granite chef’s counter forms the restaurant’s centerpiece.
Highlights from the debut menu include whole fried madai (a type of fish) with mango sweet chile sauce and papaya salad, a dish reminiscent of Bognar’s time spent in Thailand. Crab donabe (Japanese for “clay pot”) rice also numbers among his personal favorites; it involves Dungeness crab, crab fat and ikura (wild salmon caviar) cooked in a clay pot and finished tableside. Shrimp toast, another popular pick, features a shrimp and chicken-fat croquette, potato bread from Botanical Heights’ Union Loafers and cucumber relish.
To drink, iNDO offers a beverage list that includes craft cocktails inspired by Southeast Asian flavors, around 16 curated wine selections, canned Asian cocktails and canned and bottled beers, including Hite, Singha and Tiger. All things considered, iNDO sounds like a wonderful culinary destination prior to enjoying Pride and Prejudice from The Rep.
“We’re offering a lot of unique and interesting things not available at other restaurants,” Bognar says. “The biggest thing about this place is, you can come here with your friends and try a dozen different flavors across a dozen different dishes – enjoying Asian food how I would want to eat it by sharing rich and spicy courses and light, easy, clean dishes throughout your meal.”
iNDO, 1641 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis