The robatayaki cooking technique—grilling over Japanese white oak—has gotten a lukewarm reception in Chicago: a restaurant trend that never quite trended. But spend a night at this tranquil four-month-old spot—where Gene Kato (Japonais) grills bite-size morsels so flavorful you’ll likely want to double up—and it becomes clear that the ancient Japanese were, in fact, onto something sensational.

Half the offerings are appetizers, such as sliced tea-smoked duck breast medallions with piquant Japanese mustard, and the other half are prizes from the robata. Four diners can cover the entire menu, dabbling in wagyu rib eye, tender bulbs of salted onions, and Alaska king crab drizzled with spicy mayo.