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Naoki Will Do Sushi in a Space Adjacent to Intro

Lettuce Entertain You starts the year with yet another new project.

Maki at Naoki   Photo: Anjali Pinto

Another week, another huge Lettuce Entertain You announcement. Solidifying its rep for being all things consumable to all people, the most prolific restaurant group in town follows its big Italian restaurant news with some equally big sushi news.

Opening January 20 in a 50-seat space adjacent to Intro, Naoki (the Belden-Stratford, 2300 N. Lincoln Park West, Lincoln Park, 773-868-0002) will have a speakeasy feel that mimics the tucked away, side-street gems of Japan, according to manager Sue Kim.

Kim calls the vibe clean and zen, and says Naoki has created “its own Japanese I.D., but with Intro in mind. It’s an outgrowth of everything [Lettuce has] done this past year.”

Naoki Nakashima, Lettuce’s long-time sushi guy, will helm the kitchen (and, obviously, serve as the restaurant’s namesake). Nakashima heralded the mass-appeal sushi programs for Shaw’s Crab House and Tokio Pub, but here, the Japanese-born chef goes more unbridled in his creations—thinking outside the maki (which, don’t worry, will be available) with savory main dishes and daily fresh fish offerings.

Nakashima also invited others to leave their stamp on Naoki’s menu: Morimoto chef Hisonobu Osaka assisted in the creation of savory main dishes, incorporating his French training into items such as chicken teriyaki with kale-wrapped chicken sausage and kimchi-cauliflower purée, and Stephen Gillanders, the current Intro chef, helped dream up the genius ethnic mash-up of edamame guacamole.

To drink, there will be artisanal sakes, Japanese microbrews, cocktails deemed “fun and appropriate for sushi” (per Kim), and perhaps most enticing, Intro’s entire curated, 30-bottle wine list.

What’s up next for Lettuce is anyone’s guess. But this weather has us jonesing for ramen, so that’s our vote. Oh wait, there’s already Ramen-san. Maybe steak? Never mind…

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