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Years ago, when Brad Beracha first conceived of putting a combination bar and sushi restaurant in a basement space smack in the middle of downtown Clayton, I remember telling him--as nicely as I could--that I thought he was crazy. What did I know...
In the early 2000's, if you were under 35, Miso on Meramec (16 N. Meramec, 314-863-7888) was the hottest see/be-seen spot in Clayton...and maybe the city. Miso's fare was above average, with the music and vibe and personnel a notch or two above that. It was also one of the smokiest venues in the city. I remember descending those stairs with some friends just in from LA...they looked at me drop-jawed through the pall like I'd delivered them to hell's gate and moments later, they bounded back up the stairs.
But smoking was part of Miso's appeal, part of the young-people-being-cool dance. But that element took a turn in early 2010 when Miso expanded--upstairs (we reported it here), doubling its street presence, adding a patio and a new sushi bar (below right) to showcase the extensive talents of sushi chef Eliott Harris (who now owns the ChopShop STL food truck). Staying well ahead of any trend or curve, part of Beracha's bold, extensive, and expensive renovation was to get a jump on the impending smoking ban, set to take effect in Clayton in July of 2010.
The new Miso, debuting several months prior, would be 100% smoke-free. It was at that point that, according to Beracha, that the slow, downward spiral began. (We might add that Tani Sushi Bistro opened in Clayton a year earlier, bringing that city's number of sushi joints at the time to a disproportionate five.)
Beracha further attributes the closure "to the deterioration of the economy," and it has proven "too difficult to overcome."
In recent years, Beracha (who also owns ARAKA at 131 Carondelet Plz), has been instrumental in bringing some life and change to heretofore stodgy Clayton. He lobbied to move its popular Parties in the Park to downtown Clayton, but has been stonewalled by the city on other efforts. In his words, "my efforts to help restore vibrancy to the area were met with many challenges, ultimately leading to my decision to close the restaurant."
So after 11 1/2 years in business, Miso's last day of service will be January 4, 2013.
Beracha reports that next week, Miso will remain open for dinner Wednesday, January 2 through Friday, January 4, followed by a Farewell Party in the Underground Lounge on Saturday, January 5.
So will there be a Miso, somewhere other than "on Meramec?" Beracha says that he's "considering a future relocation of the Miso concept, but nothing is currently in the works."