On February 5th, Japonais emerged from seven weeks of renovations as Japonais by Morimoto (600 W. Chicago Ave., River North, 312-822-9600), carrying the name of Masaharu Morimoto, the chef and restaurateur best known for his appearances on the TV cooking competition Iron Chef.
Morimoto, Hiroshima-born and New York–based, designed both the sushi and kitchen sides of the menu. The restaurant’s publicist says, “The menu is entirely Chef Morimoto’s menu, and his signature dishes are represented with some flavorful additions for Chicago.” Ishiyaki, the hot-rock cooking that was a hallmark of the former Japonais, survives in the Ishiyaki Hamachi Bop, a hot stone bowl of yellowtail, royal fern, and egg. Chef Hisanobu Osaka, who has worked with Morimoto for eight years, has relocated to Chicago and will serve as executive chef.
The renovation chucked the white-tablecloth look, replacing it with walnut tables, and opened up the kitchen for viewing from the sushi bar. The new design retained the waterfall entrance and the ceilings of wavy wooden rafters. Somehow we thought there would be more iron in the new decor. Guess designers are less interested in puns than we are.