The Japanese brasserie concept may not currently exist in Chicago, but it will this spring via Kabocha. Shin Thompson (Bonsoiree) and Ryan O'Donnell (Gemini Bistro, Rustic House) wanted to create something elegant but high-energy, focusing on American food with Japanese influence and French technique.
"We wanted to do something fun, different, and accessible," said Thompson, "Bonsoiree was a tasting menu only, and not available to all."
The brick and timber dining room will seat 100, including spots at the marble-topped bar, raw bar, lacquered tables and intimate booths. It will feature an open kitchen with a private two-seat chef's table (made intimate by Japanese screens) that peers into the kitchen through a one-way mirror. Diners at the chef table will be served a ten-course Kaiseki tasting menu.
The menu is divided into four sections: raw, small, medium and large. The raw bar will feature unique selections like Japanese scorpion fish (when in season), according to Thompson. The shellfish melange, Kabocha's version of a seafood tower, will be displayed with small acrylic containers that mimic fish tanks, complete with seaweed on the bottom.
One highlight for Thompson from the medium section is the shabu shabu of prime rib, allowing guests to experience the do-it-yourself aspect—a hot pot heated table side with prime rib, enokitake mushrooms, and various garnishes—in an a la carte item, rather than their entire meal.
Thompson's signature Bonsoiree dishes also show up across the menu, like the scallop and crab motoyaki baked in a scallop shell; and a version of "duck, duck goose" served in a bento box.
To compliment the food will be Midwest and Japanese craft beers, an extensive sake collection, a globally-influenced wine list, and cocktails like Thompson's version of a sweet-and-salty plum wine made with shochu, yuzu and umeboshi.
Looks like Kabocha will give diners yet another reason to flock to the West Loop when it opens in "early" spring.
·Kabocha [Official Website]