Today's a very big day for the Boka Restaurant Group. The team behind Girl & the Goat, GT Fish & Oyster, and so many more of Chicago's most ballyhooed restaurants are opening the doors to what they hope is their Japanese crown jewel, Momotaro.
"We've been talking about opening a Japanese restaurant since we opened Boka," Boka Restaurant Group partner Kevin Boehm says of he and partner Rob Katz. "For us, it was about right chef, right timing."
The right chefs for Boehm and Katz are Mark Hellyar and Jeff Ramsey, who come to Chicago from Washington D.C. and Tokyo, respectively. Hellyar has been building the restaurant's hot and seasonal food—which include a izakaya bar and robata grill—for the last eight months in a test kitchen.
Boehm says that much of the crux of the food program is meant to make people "pay as much attention to the Japanese seasonal kitchen as they do the sushi," which can be a tough sell for Japanese restaurants in America. Hellyar and Ramsey's full menu, which you can read below, is evidence of that goal, as less than half of it is devoted to the sushi bar. Starters, chef selection sushi, nigiri and sashimi, rolls, and a $50 omakase option, much of which utilizes daily-procured fish from Western Japan, encompass the sushi side.
40 kitchen dishes, spread out over four pages, come small (snacks), cold (A5 wagyu and sea urchin; whitefish, salmon, ponzi), hot (Asami clam chowder; "Chili Mentaiko Spaghetti"), robata-grilled (10 types of meat, seafood or vegetarian items), hibachi-grilled (four items, including a 6 oz. A5 striploin for $120) and composed and seasonal (five dishes).
Momotaro officially opens today at 4:30 p.m. at 820 W. Lake in the West Loop, while the izakaya opens at 6 p.m. daily. Reservations are available now via OpenTable. Step inside all three floors of the majestic space and see for yourself whether it lives up to the group's lofty ambitions.