Chef Takashi Yagihashi knows his new restaurant inside the upcoming Wells St. Market food hall isn’t fine dining but he wants to give downtown office workers a lunchtime experience they don’t expect. Yagihashi’s Tabo Sushi is one of two newly unveiled vendors for Wells St., the 10,500-square-foot food hall opening this spring at 205 W. Wacker Drive. Dos Toros, the New York-based burrito chain, will open a second Chicago location and serve a new vegetable burrito that’s vegan.
Though his Michelin-starred namesake Bucktown restaurant closed more than three years ago, Yagihashi has a presence in Chicago thanks to Slurping Turtle in River North. His Tabo Sushi brand also supplies rolls for Plum Market in Old Town. His new project will have a 12 to 13-seat counter, which is larger than what most would envision for a food hall. Yagihashi is contemplating offering a set-menu option for four to six courses at different price points. Customers would be able to enjoy their meals in about 40 minutes and get back to their jobs.
“I’m thinking about three different versions — ‘I Like You,’ ‘I Love You,’ and ‘I Die For You,’” Yaghihashi said.
The famed chef has no reservations that he’d be flying seafood in from Tokyo’s fabled Tsukiji Market. He still promises Tabo will serve fresh, high-quality fish and also wants to upgrade other familiar ingredients. For example, instead of using cream cheese, they’ll swap in a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese. Yagihashi has respect for downtown sushi restaurants, but he wants Tabo to serve food that’s “two or three” notches above. Menu items include aburi Scottish salmon sashimi with tonburi and crispy ginger; a spicy hamachi specialty roll with daikon sprouts, taro root and wasabi puree; and a little neck red miso soup.
“I want to keep high-quality food, but I want to play around a little bit,” Yaghihashi said.
Downtown diners expecting ramen, the likes of which are served at Slurping Turtle and inside Macy’s State Street location at the Seven on State food court, are out of luck. Furious Spoon is the ramen provider for Wells St. Yagihashi spoke about friendly competition between other food hall vendors, including Jimmy Bannos Jr. who’s opening a gyros stand called Piggie Smalls. He has no desire for a ramen battle, though soup still remains very much on his mind. He spoke about Ramen Heads, a documentary that screens on April 20 at the Siskel Film Center. He also recently was in Japan where he waited for seven hours to try a bowl of ramen at Tomita Ramen in Matsudo. He slurped the bowl, which featured a thick broth made of pork and chicken bones with noodles thicker than bucatini, in about 20 minutes: “It was unbelievable,” Yaghihashi said.
Wells St. Market’s vendor lineup, which already includes Polish-inspired Cuban sandwiches and bone broths, continues to shape up. Stay tuned for more updates — the food hall should soon open.