chef nick bognar became well-known for his sushi at nippon tei in ballwin. photo by greg rannells

Nippon Tei chef Nick Bognar will open Indo in Botanical Heights

Nippon Tei
executive chef Nick Bognar will open Indo, his new restaurant at 1641 Tower Grove Ave., in Botanical Heights in May.

Bognar said Indo will reflect his evolving vision as a chef, focusing on a growing fish program, Southeast Asian flavor profiles from his mother Anne Bognar’s native Thailand and Japanese technique. The cuisine will be “Asian across the board” and focus on what tastes best, not necessarily on authenticity of traditional dishes. 

“We’re not going to say, ‘That's not Thai. That's not Korean. That’s not Japanese,’” he said. “It’s more about, ‘Is that good? Is that exciting?’”

The space, which most recently housed Good Fortune, is largely turnkey, but Bognar is planning some redesigns to make it his own. Indo’s dining room will seat 40 for a rotating a la carte menu of small plates and some larger offerings meant for sharing.

Read More // Nippon Tei's Nick Bognar is changing what St. Louis expects from sushi

A chef’s counter will seat another six to eight people for an omakase-style dining experience. Along with favorites from Nippon Tei, Bognar said, “You’re going to get things that we just kind of make off the cuff that night.”

The new space will enable Bognar to expand his fish program, including more aging techniques that he hopes to showcase at the chef’s counter.

“I want it to be this amazing experience where you have a tasting dinner that will satisfy and satiate and at the same time is spontaneous and fun,” he said.

West County fans of Nippon Tei shouldn't worry; Bognar will continue to work with the sushi chefs he’s trained at his mother’s popular Ballwin restaurant.

“Nippon Tei will continue to progress,” he said. “We think we can push the R&D and spearhead the fish program at Indo, and transfer a lot of those techniques … to Nippon Tei.”

It’s been a busy year for Bognar. In addition to garnering local accolades for his work at Nippon Tei, the James Beard Foundation named him a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year on Wednesday. He said all the recent attention has helped him build a team of talented chefs and enabled him to push forward with Indo.

“We’re on a roll, man,” Bognar said. 

Catherine Klene is managing editor, digital at Sauce Magazine.