Several eyebrows were raised last month when DineAmic Group (Siena Tavern, Bar Siena, Public House, Prime & Provisions) announced they were bringing a “Mexican robata bar” to River North. It’s certainly a unique-sounding concept. There’s now more clarity as the restaurant group has announced that former Top Chef contestant Katsuji Tanabe will helm the kitchen at Barrio when it opens later this year inside the former BlackFinn AmeriPub space at 65 W. Kinzie St.
Tanabe will draw from his biracial heritage—his father his Japanese and his mother his Mexican. He grew up in Mexico City. As executive chef at Barrio, he’ll infuse Japanese flavors into traditional Mexican items. He may also serve his staple Suadero tacos. These beef tacos come with pickled red onions and habanero sauce inside a house-made tortilla. Tanabe, according to a news release, served these tacos last year at the Taste of Los Angles and won over DineAmic’s Lucas Stoioff and David Rekhson.
Besides his Top Chef appearances, Tanabe is best known for MexiKosher, which opened in 2011 in Los Angeles. It later expanded to a food truck. Tanabe opened a New York location in September. Tanabe also spent stints at Mastro’s in Beverly Hills and Bastide Restaurant, an L.A. favorite that closed six years ago.
DineAmic certainly loves their Top Chef. They already work with former contestant Fabio Viviani over at Bar Siena in West Loop and Siena Tavern in River North. The latter is in the same building as Barrio.