Japonais Alum Gene Kato to Open Sumi Robata Bar, Among Other (Still-Secret) Things
Gene Kato, who spent eight years as chef-partner at Japonais, has big plans. “I want to introduce five concepts in the next five years in Chicago,” he says. The deal is done on a three-floor space with three seperate 40-seat restaurants, but the only one he’s ready to talk about is Sumi Robata Bar, a traditional, minimalist storehouse that will occupy the first floor. Customers can sit at the robata bar, where Kato plans to develop a rapport with frequent diners. “That’s what Japanese food is all about,” says Kato, who will cook meats, vegetables, fish, and seafood cooked on the robata grill over sumi (Japanese charcoal), as well as sashimi, but not maki. Kato plans to offer bigger than usual cuts of sashimi by not serving garnishes such as pickled ginger, wasabi, or shredded daikon. Produce will be sourced from American farms growing Japanese vegetables, and fish from the coasts instead of Japan, when possible. Construction begins in June for a prospective fall opening. The address and other details are still to come. For example: “I will be doing something really cool with the beer program,” he says. “The first in Chicago. Can’t say yet.”
“I ordered a kind of fish called kona kampachi. Was that not the name of an exotic starlet from the 1940s? Did she not wear a one-piece skirted bathing suit, her breasts like pointed party hats?” —Lorrie Moore (1957–), from A Gate at the Stairs
An Old Distinction
Despite its ambiguous name, the fast-casual 45-seat Antique Taco (1360 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-687-8697) serves modern dishes such as a market-mushroom taco with kale, escabeche, and cilantro cream; a fish tempura taco with smoked cabbage, scallions, and Sriracha tartar sauce; and a chicken meatball sandwich with mole poblano, homemade giardiniera, and queso fresco on a bolillo. “Tacos are a lot more hip and stylish than they ever have been. Everyone likes tacos. Kind of like pizza,” says Ashley Ortiz, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Rick (who is the chef). The “antique” in the name refers to the decor, which includes mismatched china from around the Midwest, Mason jar vases, and an old drum from a marching band. There are also two vintage chalkboards for customers to write on. “People are filling [them] up so fast, I keep having to take a picture and erase and start over,” Ashley says. Only one week old, the restaurant has a few decades to go until its taco recipes age enough to make all readings of “antique” accurate.
After more than 90 years on hiatus, The Glunz Tavern (1202 N. Wells St.; 312-642-3000) has a reboot planned, a project we first read about on Eater. The executive consulting chef, Allen Sternweiler (Butcher & the Burger), told us a few items to expect on the French-German-Alsatian menu.
• Appetizer-size plates of frog’s legs, escargots, sausage and sauerkraut, cheeses, and charcuterie
• Wiener Schnitzel, sauerbraten Rouladen, and stuffed cabbage on the German side; coq au vin and oxtail pot-au-feu on the French. “We’ll keep some classic old-school dishes to maintain the history and image of the Glunz family,” Sternweiler says.
• Grilled beef tenderloin with duxelles and bordelaise sauce
• Sautéed rainbow trout with beurre blanc, capers, and zucchini and squash Provençal
• Spaetzle überbacken—spaetzle with Black Forest ham and Gruyère cheese
• Mostly undetermined desserts. “Apple strudel, for sure,” Sternweiler says.
The space is next door to the timeless House of Glunz wine store. The owners hope for a summer opening, after which, with that classic menu, it’ll probably seem like that 90-year absence was the blink of an eye.
Updated Reviews: Amarind’s and Blackbird
New restaurant reviews, updated to reflect critics’ recent visits, appear each month in Chicago magazine, in Dine, as well as on our website. Listed restaurants are rated from one to four stars, where one is good, two is very good, three is excellent, and four is superlative. Amarind’s maintained its one-star rating; Blackbird’s rating increased from three to three and a half stars. Both updates appear in the June issue, on newsstands now.
Amarind’s (6822 W. North Ave.; 773-889-9999). Thai.
¢ (under $20 per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Complex Thai flavors pop and fresh ingredients shine at this welcoming and inexpensive haven. Despite a few letdowns, such as overcooked basil beef, there’s a lot to enjoy, beginning with fried stuffed prawns, Thai crêpes, and classic tom kha soup. Vegetable karee (yellow) curry and spinach noodles in a sauce of tamarind and ground chilies topped with shrimp and crabmeat are entrée standouts. Exotic custards round out a menu also offering Thai beers and inexpensive wines.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Blackbird (619 W. Randolph St.; 312-715-0708). Contemporary.
★★★½ (excellent to superlative)
$$$$ ($50-plus per person for a meal, without tax, tip, or alcohol)
Excellent but not arrogant, cutting-edge but not weird, this modernist restaurant presents culinary art without staginess. Some of David Posey’s dishes riff on familiar flavor patterns, such as rabbit with barley risotto topped with an egg yolk, and some take you to the far reaches of the flavor universe, like butternut squash soup with roe, char, peach, and stout foam. All are executed with an admirable clarity of vision and deft technique, plated with swaths and bursts of color on stark white plates. Foie gras with sour accompaniments and savory desserts may not be what you expect, but you can’t deny their boldness.
For the dishes we liked best, click here.
Remembrance of Things Pastoral
The three-location cheese, bread, and wine shop Pastoral branches out this fall to a new field: the bistro, with Bar Pastoral (2947 N. Broadway; no phone yet), which we first read about on Eater. “This is like Pastoral Live. The experience we encourage people to go and have at home,” says Ken Miller, a co-owner with Greg O’Neill. Cheeses, charcuterie, and other light fare built from items sold in the shop will be paired with selected wines and craft beers. “People understand [the reason] we carry that jam or this charcuterie is that they really sing well together,” O’Neill says. When they occupy the space in June, renovations begin, including connecting to the Lake View Pastoral at 2945 North Broadway by uncovering a walled-up passage. The light menu, which will include housemade pickles, sounds a little like having an indoor picnic. Now if Miller and O’Neill can just get the Grant Park Orchestra to play in the bistro, they can re-create the whole experience.
- Pollack says bonjour to Paris with croissants from Boulangerie Julien.
- Next on the itinerary: Au Bougnat for filet daurade, roasted veal chop, and a dessert of caramelized bananas.
- Dinner at Le Petit Chatelet was a feast of supreme de poulet au jus, a tomato-mozzarella salad, and profiteroles.
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Things to Do
1. Support the tykes while devouring dishes from restaurants such as Sunda, 312 Chicago, and Vivo at KID Best Friend Award Night, a fundraiser for the not-for-profit Kids in Danger tomorrow from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Fulton’s on the River (315 N. LaSalle St.; 312-822-0100). Tickets cost $125 and can be purchased online.
2. Join the birthday bash at Roots Handmade Pizza (1924 W. Chicago Ave.; 773-645-4949), which toasts its first year of business on May 30, from 11 a.m. to close, with half-price pizzas (dine-in only), drink specials, and free cake from Bleeding Heart Bakery. Festivities culminate at 10 p.m., when the result of Roots’ newest chef collaboration, Stephanie Izard’s Girl & the Goat pizza (Pleasant Meadows Farms goat sausage ragu, mozzarella cheese, smoked cheddar cheese, sharp aged cheddar cheese, and a yuzu-maple drizzle), will be doled out free to all paying customers seated at the bar.
3. Pack a primo picnic from Toni Patisserie & Café (65 E. Washington St.; 312-726-2020). Beginning June 1, the Millennium Park–adjacent bakery will offer to-go meals for two, consisting of a main course (half-baguette sandwiches or salads), a side of chips or a baguette, bottled beverages, and dessert (brownies or cookies) for $23.95. We recommend the tasty Breton sandwich with Gruyère.
- Batter & Berries (2748 N. Lincoln Ave.; 773-248-7710), a breakfast-brunch-lunch place serving novelty dishes such as a deconstructed omelet and French toast with flavored whipped creams, is heating up the skillets for its opening on Friday.
- Piano Terra (Art Institute of Chicago Modern Wing, 125 E. Monroe St.; 312-443-8650), an alfresco extension of Tony Mantuano’s Terzo Piano, also opens Friday.
- Maison (333 E. Benton Pl., 312-241-1540), a modern interpretation of a French brasserie from the owners of Custom House Tavern and the recently opened Eggy’s, joins the opening-Friday crowd.
Dot Dot Dot . . .
Eater reports that the lauded pastry chef Bryce Caron and Blackbird have parted ways. . . . Grub Street writes that Lure Izakaya Pub, the Chinatown restaurant where the elusive Eric Aubriot once worked, has shuttered, closing another paper window on the never-quite-off-the-ground izakaya trend. . . . Also on Grub Street, the location for Elizabeth, the upcoming storefront from Iliana Regan of the underground-dinner series One Sister, was revealed as 4835 North Western Avenue, the former home of Prix Fixe. . . . Props to Chicago’s own Jeff Ruby, who won a CRMA award for dining writing. Take a look at the three reviews—for L2O, Next, and Ing)—that scored him the hardware. . . . Team Dish will be busy barbecuing next week and will be back June 6.