Chef Gene Kato, who is working on opening Sumi Robata Bar, has been moonlighting as a consulting chef. Kato has been working with chef Franky Fong (Lao Sze Chuan, Lao Beijing) to overhaul the menu at Red Violet, which didn't get such great reviews after first opening in February. The restaurant will launch the new menu tonight.
Kato explained that Red Violet's menu generally consisted of more typical Chinese dishes like kung pao beef and wonton soup and that diners didn't want to pay the more elevated prices in River North. "The typical American customer has this pre-conceived notion that those dishes are like take-out food," Kato said. "I want to break that perception and use traditional Chinese ingredients and present it upscale."
The new menu features dishes like a cashew-crusted halibut in a Chinese mustard sauce with curried shrimp and long beans; diver scallop salad with zucchini and Sichuan pepper dressing; Peking pork, a take on classic Peking duck, with Kurobuta pork crackling, pickled mushroom and other traditional garnishes; fried tiger shrimp toast with sweet and sour sauce; whole lobster de-shelled and served with black bean sauce and asparagus and Red Violet classics like Xiao Long Bao, General Tsao chicken and spicy kung pao.
Kato added that the restaurant will also serve a modern take on classic Chinese desserts like soft tofu coconut custard with almond milk, a Szechuan mango paste and almond cookie crust and a sophisticated version of a Chinese egg tart done in more of the style of flan with a pistachio meringue torched tableside and topped with passion fruit glaze.
Even though Kato specializes in Japanese cuisine, he said most Asian cuisine is influenced by the Chinese. "It's easy for me to take Chinese ingredients and present them a little more sophisticated," he said. "To build on flavors isn't that difficult. Franky is great; he specializes in the wok. His skills in the wok and my understanding of flavor profiles and what Chicago customers enjoy works out."
· Gene Kato's Sumi Robata Bar Will Open at 702 N. Wells [~EChi~]
· Purple Haze—Red Violet Loses Way Along Road to Chinese Cuisine [Sun-Times]
· What to Eat at Red Violet, Now Open on Hubbard Street [~EChi~]