Yugen, the modern Japanese restaurant, debuts tonight in the West Loop. The tasting menu restaurant replaces Grace, the three-Michelin-starred restaurant that suddenly closed after a disagreement between the chef and ownership. The result left the Michelin-starred eatery in disarray, but it’s now been reborn thanks to Chicago native chef Mari Katsumura.
Chicago has seen its share of omakase restaurants in recent months, but Katsumura is attempting something different with her blend of innovative Japanese food. The city is ready. She admits it would be more difficult to open a restaurant like this a decade ago. Vendors are now more attuned to Japanese flavors; it’s not hard finding the right ingredients.
While the space doesn’t look or feel radically different from its predecessor, chef Curtis Duffy’s menu has given way to Katsumura’s personal nostalgia. She’ll serve a 13-course menu ($205) and there’s a vegetarian option.
Katsumura’s father, the late Yoshi Katsumura, made versions of these dishes for his daughter at Yoshi’s, the family’s Lakeview restaurant.
“I do draw a lot of my inspiration from my roots, my upbringing, as well as dishes my father created for his restaurants, I just adapted them for this environment,” Katsumura said.
Katsumura is a former pastry chef. The transition to executive chef has been seamless. Even with plating, she doesn’t see any difference leaving the dessert world.
“The only thing I really miss is bread, so I try to do that as much as possible,” she said.
Scope out some of Katsumura’s dishes below. Yugen opens tonight.
Yugen, 652 W. Randolph Street, reservations via OpenTable, (312) 265-1008, open 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday through Saturday; closes at 10:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; Kaisho is open 5 p.m. to midnight on Tuesday through Thursday; 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.