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The Melman Kids Take on Maki with Sushi-san

Lettuce Entertain You’s younger generation will show off its skills with casual Japanese fare starting in the late fall.

Nigiri at Sushi-san   Photo: Ryan Meyers

With the 2014 opening of Ramen-san, Lettuce Entertain You demonstrated its mastery of laid-back Japanese. Last year’s introduction of Naoki proved they can also roll with a fine-dining Japanese concept—and make a mean maki. And now, a casual sushi restaurant marrying the cuisine of Naoki and the casual/cool vibe of Ramen-san is set to join the Lettuce family late this fall.

Sushi-san (59 W. Grand Ave., River North) takes over the former La Madia space and according to partner R.J. Melman, will look nothing like its Italian predecessor. “If you have seen Ramen-san, you have a taste of what we are going to do: rougher and more casual. The overarching theme is fun, upbeat,” says Melman—who’s again partnered with his siblings Jerrod and Molly as well as chef Doug Psaltis for the project.

Expect two separate bars and an open kitchen, each with counter seating. The kitchen will house a charcoal wood-burning oven and charcoal wood-burning grill, while the bars are reserved for the creation of hand rolls and maki rolls.

Joining the aforementioned rolls on the menu are binchotan-grilled meats and vegetables, nigiri bombs (bite-sized snacks such as fatty tuna with uni and quail egg), and traditional omakase items. At the forefront of it all is executive sushi chef Kaze Chan, who has spent two years logging hours at Ramen-san. “He’s been hanging out with us, in development [while we were] looking for a location that we wanted to do with him,” Melman says.

Beverage-wise, Melman promises “a lot of great Japanese whisky and really, really cold beers,” along with shaved-ice cocktails.

“This will be a sister restaurant to Ramen-san in style and approachability,” Melman says. That approachability, he adds, extends to pricing: “I think Sushi-san will be inexpensive. You will be pleasantly surprised.”

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