Last December, many Chicagoans wondered about the future of local fine dining as 2017 saw several high-profile restaurant closures including 42 Grams, Tru, and Grace. The Grace shutter came in December and stung as the city suddenly said farewell to chef Curtis Duffy’s posh Randolph Street menus. Eleven months later and the space has a new chef, new name, and new direction. Yugen and companion lounge Kaisho debut on Tuesday with chef Mari Katsumura’s contemporary spin on Japanese cuisine with a fresh tasting menu that’s inspired by her heritage.
Owner Michael Olszewski turned to Katsumura and his daughter — general manager Morgan Olszewski — to repair the space’s reputation in the West Loop. Katsumura grew up in the Chicago restaurant business, as her parents Yoshi and Nobuko Katsumura ran Yoshi’s Cafe — a Lakeview restaurant that blends Japanese and French cuisine. Her father passed away three years ago.
Customers will see her mother’s touches inside the restaurant. She helped in a variety of ways including finding a traditional Japanese florist and unique plates from Japan. Katsumura said her mother understands what she’s trying to accomplish with Yugen’s innovative tasting menus. On the other hand, her father was more of a traditionalist.
“My dad is far more old school and true to his French culinary roots,” Katsumura said with a laugh.
The restaurant seats 68 and diners will notice many similarities to its predecessor. They’ve kept the same $1,000 seats and replaced the round tables with wooden ones that are more rectangular. There’s a private dining room that seats 12. The big change in front is Kaisho — the lounge seats 16 with a fireplace.
Take a tour through the space below. Yugen opens on Tuesday. Come back for more details on chef Katsumura’s menu tomorrow. The restaurant is one of 2018’s most anticipated new restaurants in the country.