Michelin-starred chef Iliana Regan (Elizabeth) turned toward Japan for inspiration for her new restaurant, Kitsune (click for photos). Regan, with an assist from culinary director Justin Behlke (Cellar Door Provisions), has sought out to create a restaurant that celebrates seasonal ingredients in the same way they do in Tokyo and other Japanese cities. Regan announced the restaurant in September 2015.
It’s one of 2017’s most-anticipated openings. Inside it’s a cozy 20 seats, plus a pub area with four bar seats in North Center. They’re serving ramen and snacks until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.
Regan remains enthusiastic about ramen (they’ll have two ramens available, one meat-based—likely tonkatsu—and a veggie/vegan iteration). The noodles come from Sun Noodle, the ramen titan founded in 1981 with factories in Los Angeles, Honolulu and New Jersey. They provide noodles for many shops who don’t have room for machines in their kitchens. Regan and Behlke will experiment with technique. The dashi and condiments like soy sauce are all house made, as Fooditor chronicled.
However, the restaurant is much more than ramen, as there’s a tasting menu, as well as a $40 multi-course kaiseki for Sunday brunch. Regan has shared versions of her a la carte menu for months, and just like Elizabeth’s, she’s seen the food evolve—even before opening Kitsune. Behlke told the Tribune that they’re focusing on layering flavors to allow the ingredients shine with simple preparations. They’re not focusing on authenticity, even though Regan and Behlke have spent time in Japan and done research. Regan pointed out they already use many Japanese techniques at Elizabeth.
Dishes include a seasonal gyoza (what good ramen shop doesn’t have good dumplings?), okonomiyaki (the traditional savory pancake) and a 5-ounce, high-grade A5 wagyu. At $60, it’s the priciest item on the menu.
“Relax, eat, drink, indulge” provides Kitsune’s motto. After a few false starts, diners can do so tonight. But reservations through Feb. 15 are booked. Perhaps it’s time for a late-night sojourn which doesn’t require a booking.
Kitsune, 4229 N. Lincoln Ave, hours (starting Jan. 31): 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday through Thursday; dinner service 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and snack/ramen service 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday; 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for brunch and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for dinner on Sunday.