the dining room at the benevolent king in maplewood photo by greg rannells

The Benevolent King in Maplewood is rebranding as a Japanese restaurant

The Benevolent King, which has featured Moroccan-inspired dishes since it opened in 2018, has reimagined itself and plans to open as a Japanese restaurant on Valentine's Day, Wednesday, Feb. 14.

This new concept is brought to you by Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Bengelina Hospitality Group. This group has an impressive roster of St. Louis restaurants, including Olio, Elaia, Nixta, Bar Moro and Deli Divine, as well as specialty foods market and coffee shop AO&Co. Poremba has embraced chef Eliott Harris’s Japanese culinary experiences as The Benevolent King embarks on a new challenge in the same location at 7268 Manchester Road in Maplewood.


photo by lucas farrell


While the concept will keep a few signature dishes from the former restaurant, all of the Moroccan-forward food items will be removed from the menu. According to Harris, the new menu will be small and ever-changing. “I’m going to have seafood shipments that are coming in daily from all over the country,” said Harris. “So, depending on availability and seasonality, it's going to dictate the menu. I’m looking forward to the next couple of months; I probably have 50 menu ideas ready to go, and I just have to minimize that into a shorter menu and rotate to see what the customers like.”

Although much of the menu will feature fish-forward small plates, Harris doesn’t want to be tagged as a sushi bar. “I don’t want it to be known as a sushi bar because it’s not the kind of place where you’re going to come in and order a California roll,” said Harris. “I’ll have a very small handful of rolls that I’ve created over the last 25 years of doing this around the country.” Harris has accumulated quite the resume, working with Japanese cuisine since 1999 in places like Colorado, San Francisco and Miami. He stresses that although the concept will be a lot of Japanese foods, he won’t be put in a box. “It’s just going to be good dishes; not every dish will necessarily be Japanese,” said Harris. “It’ll be small, shareable plates just like The Benevolent King’s menu was before.”


photo by lucas farrell


The restaurant will maintain its renowned cocktail program while upgrading and adding drinks where Harris and Poremba see fit. They’re still actively working on the cocktail menu, which will feature a rum-based tiki cocktail. “It’s going to be a lot of fun – really delicious cocktails will be added to the menu,” said Harris.

As for the interior of the restaurant, nothing will immediately change. “The space itself is perfect for what we’re going to do,” said Harris. “The perfect place for a date night, it has a sexy atmosphere and a great cocktail program. Down the road, we might gradually change some of the seating arrangements, but, for now, it’s not broken, so there is no need to fix anything.” The small, unassuming space features black walls with white tilework and gold accents throughout and holds around 28 guests at one time.

The Benevolent King’s revamp will debut on Valentine’s Day night. Reservations are open on The Benevolent King’s website. Following Valentine’s Day, they will be open Wednesday through Saturday from 6 to 10 p.m. Follow them on Instagram to stay up to date all week leading up to opening night.