Otto Phan, the chef and owner of Austin’s essential sushi haunt Kyōten Sushiko, is moving to Chicago to open a second location of his high-end chef’s choice sushi engagement in Logan Square this August. Phan, who trained at Bar Masa in New York and Uchi in Austin, says that his Chicago outlet will be a “souped up” version of the original, with just seven seats in a minimalist-designed, 1,200 square-foot space within a mixed-use building.
Priced at $240 including tax and tip (up from Austin’s $150 cost), Phan’s omakase menu will span around 20 bites, beginning with a few otsumami (snacks), before moving into nigiri, which comprise most of the menu. He’ll offer two seatings per night, five night a week, and reservations will be required.
Phan explains that his “sushi philosophy is based on simplicity, harmony, and balance,” inspired by traditional sushiya in Japan. “Modern simplicity,” as he puts it. While not totally Edomae in style (how sushi was originally prepared during the 19th century using preserved fish sourced from around Tokyo Bay), patrons can expect “lots of Edomae influence and technique,” like the aging and curing of fish. Phan says that his rice is a special varietal from Japan that has never been used in the U.S., and before service he will season two separate batches with different blends of red vinegars. So, over the course of a meal, diners will experience nigiri built from two batches of rice, each seasoned separately to enhance the umami in specific fish. For example, sushi chefs sometimes season rice with more acidic vinegars when pairing with fatty fish in effort to balance the animal’s richness. This practice is quite common at top Tokyo sushiya, but very rare domestically.
Phan will source about 80 percent of his fish from Japan, with the rest coming from the east and west coasts. Down the line, Phan plans to offer casual lunch, with a menu consisting of donburi bowls ranging from $15 to $40. In terms of beverages, think a short list of sake, beer, and grape wine. Guests will also have the option of a sake pairing.
Phan’s Chicago debut marks an exciting addition to the Chicago dining scene. In a city rife with pricey tasting menus, one of the biggest dining voids is the lack of high-quality sushi. And with tall ambitions, Phan hopes his sushiya will eventually earn two Michelin stars.
Phan isn’t ready to share the address of his forthcoming Chicago restaurant, so stay tuned.