A meal at Masaki
A luxe meal at Masaki

“Are we allowed to talk?” my friend whispered from her perch at Masaki, Chicago’s priciest—and possibly emptiest—Japanese restaurant. The tiny new Gold Coast spot from Kimberly and Mauro Mafrici (Pelago), which offers three omakase options ($98, $134, and $178), has flown under the radar since it opened in August. With its delicate curtains, elegant chandelier, and spa-worthy music, Masaki feels like the inside of a jewelry box—one where you can hear a mother-of-pearl-adorned chopstick drop.

Our suave, humorless server stared from the corner as we oohed and aahed over much of our 11-plate three-course feast: a piece of marinated salmon and minced tuna blanketed in avocado, a mélange of brilliantly colored sashimi punctuated by mellow red snapper and buttery salmon belly, and succulent soy-braised short rib. All gorgeous and top-notch, but do pristine presentations and stately surroundings warrant saying sayonara to such a substantial sum, especially now? Not unless you’re treating the oh-so-fashionable Issey Miyake to dinner. 990 N. Mies van der Rohe Way, 312-280-9100.


Photograph: Anna Knott