Ian Froeb's STL 100

Photo by Hillary Levin (Post-Dispatch)


I do miss Hiro Asian Kitchen, the downtown west restaurant (and STL 100 mainstay) that Bernie Lee closed in 2019 after a six-year run, but I will take the trade that has given us Lee's next venture, Akar. This compact Clayton restaurant bursts with Lee's personality, from the decor (including light fixtures from Indonesia that Lee himself designed) to the menu, which draws from the Malaysia native's life and travels. Akar's fare is elegantly plated and unfolds in complex layers of bold but balanced flavors at both dinner (the day's fish over black rice with pickled pink peppercorns and capers in a curried shrimp bouillon) and more casual lunch (beef bulgogi bibimbap with apple gochujang).

Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Saturday, lunch Tuesday-Friday, brunch Sunday (closed Monday)

Last year's ranking: New this year

Opened: 2019

Many St. Louis-area restaurants are closed or limiting their dining options during the coronavirus pandemic.