From left, executive chef-owner bernie lee and teammate samantha pretto photo by michelle volansky

First Look: Akar in Clayton


In recent years, the stretch of Wydown Boulevard just east of Hanley Road in Clayton has become the place to go to find eateries featuring creative fare and intimate environs. Akar, the latest from restaurateur and executive chef Bernie Lee, is the newest addition to this bustling strip, bringing Asian influences and then some to the neighborhood.


Lee shuttered his most recent restaurant, Hiro Asian Kitchen downtown at 1405 Washington Ave., in May, just weeks before the opening of Akar (the word means “roots” in Mandalay) which officially debuted on Tuesday, June 11.


The quick turnaround isn’t evidenced by the space at 7641 Wydown Blvd., which is equal parts quaint old Clayton and sleek modern design. The tin ceiling over the bar area is contrasted by rough concrete, variegated panels and unique hanging light fixtures, while the light wood bar top pops amidst the subtle neutral tones throughout the rest of the space. The interior is cozy — just 12 seats — while the hedge-lined patio area in front boasts an additional 24.


Lee said the seasonally focused cuisine at Akar reflects what he likes to eat and includes influences from his time in St. Louis, his childhood and his extensive travel history. Lee has put together a menu that ranges from banh mi and bowls for lunch to dinner fare like short ribs, noodles and seafood, with myriad vegetarian and gluten-free items available. Samantha Pretto, who most recently was executive chef of The Dark Room in Grand Center, now works alongside Lee in the Akar kitchen. The full bar includes six by-the-glass wine offerings, as well as a selection of 375-milliliter splits for those who want more than a single pour but less than a bottle. 


Currently, Akar is open Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, 2 to 5 p.m. for happy hour drinks and bar snacks and from 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner. Lunch and happy hour times remain the same for Friday and Saturday, while dinner hours are extended to 10 p.m. All-day Sunday brunch will be served from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. beginning July 7. Lee said Mondays would be reserved for private dining and special events. Take a peek at Clayton’s latest. 


Matt Sorrell is a staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 


Editor’s Note: This article was updated on June 21 to correct Lee’s title. 

Tags : Places, New Restaurants, Restaurants, First Looks