- Street art and graffiti is seen throughout the restaurant
- The Old City Market roll inspired by Charleston, S.C. has spicy tuna, seared salmon and wrapped in collard green
- A chain mail sculpture graces the center of the main floor
- Chefs cooking on the 600-degree robata grill
- Succulent lamb ramen with fried quail egg that explodes into the broth
- A long view of the sushi bar's prep area
- Wagyu beef tartare with raw quail egg, wonton chips and pickled baby daikon
- Stripped wood boxes will serve as shelves and lockers for high-end spirits and sake
Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar [Photo: Timothy Hiatt Photography]
River North is about to get an infusion of some street smarts. Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar is scheduled to open sometime next week, but Eater got a sneak peek and the space has a lot of wow factor. When you first enter, you experience a bit of sensory overload and aren't quite sure where to look. But then your eyes are drawn to the vibrant graffiti art created by artist Solo. The colors (orange, yellow, red, blue, browns) and images exploding from the back wall draw you in as you look beyond the chain-mail sculpture growing out of a console in the center of the room.
Floating dark wood shelves attached to steel poles hover above the sushi bar. Untreated wood boxes hang on the opposite wall holding all sorts of wine, spirits and vintage sake—some fairly expensive and kept under lock and key. You see a mix of concrete, wood, cork and acrylic running throughout the space with 20-foot-ceilings from table tops to chairs to a curved staircase leading up to a sexy lounge with slatted walls on the second level.
But possibly the most impressive item in this industrial space with a youthful vibe is the custom-made, glass-enclosed robata grill that reaches 600 degrees. Here, chefs cook a variety of ingredients—lamb, chicken thigh, prosciutto-wrapped scallop, whole squid, shiitake mushroom—on skewers, all costing under $5.
The rest of the menu, created by former Sushi Wabi exec chef Worachai Thapthimkuna, a.k.a. Chao, pulls inspiration from an extensive Asian excursion he took with business partner, Mike Schatzman, last year. Look for panko-fried oysters, fried pork belly, lamb ramen with fried quail egg, mushroom dumpling and various sushi rolls named for places they visited, including the Old City Market roll (spicy tuna, seared salmon and spicy ponzu wrapped in collard greens without any rice) inspired by a market in Charleston, S.C.
Chao plans on adding more adventurous food down the line, but one thing more courageous eaters may enjoy is the "piece of tail," a braised pig tail served in a succulent sauce served alongside pickled daikon and a warm roll made in-house with seaweed that's reminiscent of zucchini bread.
Union Sushi will start with dinner service and eventually add lunch and brunch. They want the restaurant to be a cool, casual spot you can go for food or drinks or both and not worry about any pretense possibly found at other places in the area. So don't be surprised if you a couple of hip thirty somethings dining next to a pack of Harajuku wannabes. It has that kind of vibe.