Noyane opens on Monday on the roof of the Conrad Chicago hotel, just off Michigan Avenue, with a menu far different from what consulting chef Richard Sandoval had initially planned. Executive chef Jordan Dominguez, a South Side native, persuaded Sandoval to drop the Latin American influence and to focus purely on Japanese, delivering more authentic takes on sushi and yakitori.
“This is Chicago,” Dominguez said. “Fusion doesn’t really fly here.”
That may be a controversial statement, given the success of restaurants like Fat Rice in Logan Square, but Dominguez feels strongly about Chicago’s sushi tastes. He spent time working at Momotaro, Boka Restaurant Group’s sushi jewel in the West Loop. He lauded how Momotaro has educated Chicago’s sushi palates and hopes Noyane (pronounced No-YAWN-ee) can continue those lessons.
“Chicago is go big or go home, that’s always been my philosophy,” he said.
Dominguez promised huge sushi platters that grab the attention and envy of guests sitting at other tables. Sure, the big attraction for Noyane is drinking beverages like sake sangria on a rooftop, but the food will be high caliber, like any top-notch sushi spot, Dominguez said. Guests won’t see sushi boats, as Dominguez said they’re too antiquated.
“We’ll have fun with things, it’s more of a free-form presentation,” he said. “Each fish has a story to tell, and it’s our job to tell it properly.”
That bit of a wisdom came from one of Dominguez’s mentors. There’s a lot to respecting the fish, and that includes sourcing from reputable sources. The Shedd Aquarium has established the Right Bite Program to increase awareness about over-fishing. For Dominguez, that means endangered species like bluefin tuna won’t appear as often on the menu. “We’re trying to showcase the ocean without depleting them at the same time,” he said.
Dominguez wants to focus on fish that may be unfamiliar to most. He’s excited about serving sea robin, for example. Menu highlights also include a box-pressed King crab roll that’s an homage to a traditional Maine seafood dinner with garlic butter. Skewers of A5 wagyu on table-side hot stones are also available for folks not into fish.
The roof, being a direct target for the sun, doesn’t have a sushi cooler. That’s something Dominguez is working on, but he also offers a tip to guests: Don’t fear warm sushi. Not all sushi in Japan is served super cold. In fact, some of the best pieces of fish are a little warm.
Take a look at the menu below, which is presented comic book style by Denver artist Eric Wedum. There’s a bit of a Marvel Comics influence from the Master of Kung Fu. Also, if readers look closely, there’s a cameo from Ms. Marvel, or at least a cosplayer bearing the superhero’s costume.
Noyane opens Monday on the 21st floor of the Conrad, 101 E. Erie St.