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Momotaro

Wagyu strip steak  Photo: Jeff Marini

Named for a Japanese folk hero who came to Earth in a giant peach, Momotaro represents a major step for the Boka Restaurant Group (a.k.a. Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz). It’s larger than Girl & the Goat, louder than GT Fish & Oyster, and pricier than Balena—and more modern than any of them. The hot design firm AvroKO filled the spectacular space with idiosyncratic touches, from a mural of 991,000 pen marks outside the bathrooms (“Took four guys seven days,” says Boehm) to a vintage pay phone downstairs that plays Japanese recordings. Even by Boka’s usually high standards, this $3.4 million, 11,000-square-foot fiefdom qualifies as an immense achievement.

But none of that would make a lick of difference without airtight food. Momotaro’s diverse 87-item menu harbors so many highlights that repeat visits become mandatory. One night, you could focus on the excellent robata skewers and score tender jidori chicken hearts with peppercorn and plum pastes. The next, you could turn to hibachi offerings—say, a wagyu strip steak sizzling on a big banana leaf atop barley mixed with miso.

Unless you’d prefer to hold court in the lounge, drinking a Spirited Away (Japanese whiskey, spiced pear liqueur, Luxardo amaro) and devouring big, gorgeous, perfect bites of charcoal-seared bonito. Or you might head straight to the alley-like basement izakaya for sake and silky chawan mushi topped with Alaskan red king crab and black truffle sauce. Then again, you could spend multiple visits just exploring the flashy sushi bar, stocked with all manner of raw tuna, salmon, and mackerel, plus playful nigiri and noble makimono. While the prices may push the envelope ($4.50 for one piece of hamachi sashimi?), they reflect Momotaro’s insistence on quality: Its fish come from Tokyo’s legendary Tsukiji market three times a week.

As at all Boka restaurants, the energetic and well-trained servers make themselves active partners in your happiness. At Momotaro, which could easily devolve into a sensory-overload disaster, that’s crucial. Every employee seems thrilled to be here and thrilled to help you. And why shouldn’t they? They’re working at the best new restaurant in Chicago.

Order this: Snowflake junmai sake ($10), ogo seaweed salad ($6), shiitake mushroom skewer ($8), toro tartare ($25), steamed shittori yuzu cake ($10)

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