The sushi chefs are ready to roll, the A5 Wagyu beef is ready to sizzle, and the celebs are ready to be seen inside Katana, the glitzy LA import opening tonight in River North at 339 N. Dearborn St. Wednesday night’s VIP party brought out former Bull Jimmy Butler and rapper Bow Wow. Meanwhile Chicagoans caught their first glimpse of this upscale Japanese restaurant aims to add to the city’s dining scene.
Neighboring Chicago’s famous Marina City Towers and The Hotel Chicago, construction crews gutted the former Bin 36 space to make room for two bars, and a nifty second-floor landing where visitors can see the entire dining room. Despite the buzz, restaurant partner Philip Cummins remained grounded. A “katana” is a sword used by Japanese samurai, but Cummins said his restaurant needs to about more than shiny things: “If it's trendy, I’m screwed,” he said last month during a hard hat tour of the restaurant.
There’s a “strictly-enforced” and “upscale-casual” dress code at the restaurant (no shorts, flip flops, athletic wear, or beach wear). Escapism is an important trait for the restaurant, and that’s why Cummins shops at antique stores all over the world picking up Japanese trinkets that would accentuate his restaurants. His Sunset Strip restaurant debuted in 2002 in LA and built a loyal following of stars. The robatayaki uses charcoal from Japan, and the sushi aims to innovate. Japanese whisky, cocktails, and sake help keep the fun times going. Katana opened a second location in 2015 in Dubai.
Katana’s competition isn’t just other Japanese restaurants, but it’s all fine-dining spots, according to Cummins. He maintains lofty expectations for Katana and Chicago. Cummins’ Innovative Dining Group has been scouting Chicago real estate to open more restaurants. Chicagoans, with their Midwestern modesty, are notoriously skeptical of any West Coast hype. Starting today, they can see if Katana is a worthy addition to the city.
Katana, 339 N. Dearborn St., (312) 877-5544, open 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Monday to Thursday; 4 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday; 5 p.m. to midnight on Saturday; and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations eventually available via OpenTable.