SanSai - Japanese Grill

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Healthful Fare

by Leslie Garrison, Ladue News, Webster Groves, MO– Eating out and eating healthy aren’t always easy to do, especially with today’s always-on-the-go lifestyle. If you also fancy exotic flavor that won’t break the bank, choices are even more limited. But a new restaurant in town may make that decision easier.

SanSai Japanese Grill in Webster Groves offers healthy Japanese cuisine in what the owners call “fast-casual” atmosphere. “People can get the same high-quality food they get at casual sit-down restaurants, but in a faster environment and at reasonable prices,” says Dan Burns, co-founder of the restaurant chain headquartered in California.

Burns, a St. Louisan who has been developing national chains for more than 20 years, and co-founder Yon Suk Lipsky, the culinary force behind SanSai’s menu, opened the first restaurant in January last year.

They now have five locations, five under construction and more planned. Burns and Lipsky met in California, where both were developing restaurants and were inspired to create a new one together. “We wanted to create a Japanese restaurant where people could go every day, not only for special occasions,” Burns says.

The concept wan an instant hit, Burns says, thanks in part to the growing popularity of Japanese food. “Nationally, it has surpassed Mexican as the favorite ethnic food for people 35 and under,” he says. “We didn’t set out to create a healthy restaurant, but a byproduct of Japanese food is that it’s very healthy.”

After the concept took off in California, Burns quickly turned to developing the market in his hometown. “People in St. Louise love restaurants and good food, and I think they’re always interested in new tastes and flavors,” he says. “I really liked the Webster Groves location because it’s very central.” SanSai opened July 26 near the intersection of Gore and Lockwood avenues. “We have a great space, with two walls of windows, a great patio and two fountains outside.”

SanSai offers a variety of salads, sushi, and grilled chicken, steak, salmon and shrimp combinations-all with special sauces and dressings made fresh daily. The signature items are fresh-tossed salads, which come with most orders and are made throughout the day.

Catering is another aspect of SanSai’s business, one that has grown immensely in California. Many caterers-including Wolfgang Puck’s company and the Biltmore Hotel- don’t make sushi, so they call SanSai when clients want it. “We also make party trays at our restaurants, so people can call up for salads or sushi trays,” Burns says.

Although there’s only one SanSai location in St. Louis, plans for more are in the works, and that’s only the beginning, Burns says. “There’s no reason this couldn’t work all over the U.S.-just coming from California to St. Louis shows that.”

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