A chef who’s worked at Chicago sushi stalwarts Mirai and Japonais will open an intimate eight-seat restaurant this week to serve only a 17-course $125 omakase menu. Omakase Yume is opening on Wednesday at 651 W. Washington Boulevard in the West Loop. It’s a tiny reservation-only space devoted to sushi, where chef Sangtae Park will personally serve customers at two seatings every night.
Park emigrated 17 years ago to America from Busan, South Korea’s second-largest city. He worked on the opening teams at Mirai in Wicker Park and Japonais in River North. For the last six years, he’s operated his own standalone restaurant in suburban Niles. Izakaya Yume was more of a casual spot that Park ran with his wife, Kate Kim-Park, who is from Seoul although the couple met in Chicago. A few of their customers began asking for more upscale selections, and Park was happy to oblige. Soon they couldn’t keep up with the requests for those special items and he pondered opening a restaurant dedicated to sushi. He then made the leap last year and closed the Niles restaurant and relocated it inside the Super H-Mart Korean market. The Parks also run a food truck.
“I’m very excited, very happy, and nervous,” chef Park said with a laugh.
Chef doesn’t speak a lot of English, but he’s committed to showcasing his style at the eight-seat counter. He’ll fly in the fish from near where he grew up. He feels Chicago’s sushi restaurants lose focus with a “something for everyone” menu philosophy. Omakase Yume is unapologetically about the fish, of which the restaurant will use in 15 to 17 courses daily. When the Parks secure their liquor license they intend to offer sake pairings. There is one deviation: There will be additional items available in case a diner wants something extra.
One of the customers impressed with Park’s talents is now a partner. Calvin Pipping is from Vancouver, but his travels take him to Chicago. He dined at Izakaya Yume about two years ago and befriended the Parks. He’s helping them as an investor and on their Instagram account.
“I thought that he was doing something very, very special for where he was,” Pipping said.
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The food will be reminiscent of the sushi Park ate in Korea. It’s a very simple and clean presentation. There could be a few twists like a small dollop of kimchi puree on whitefish: “We’re only fish and rice,” said Kate Kim-Park.
They won’t serve rolls and patrons will have the option to eat with their hands. They could have opted for a larger space, but Kim-Park said her husband wants to keep it intimate. The fish shouldn’t have to wait in the time it could take a waiter to deliver an item to a table. Keep it at the counter for the freshest fish possible.
Reservations are already available via OpenTable for 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. nightly seatings. There is a little concern about the Parks getting their names out. They were well-known in the suburbs and now they’re coming to the city where they hope Chicagoans have more of an appetite for upscale sushi offerings. They hope word of mouth spreads as their West Loop block doesn’t draw a large amount of foot traffic.
Chicagoans are becoming increasingly familiar with omakase. Austin, Texas chef Otto Phan wants to open a Michelin-caliber restaurant in Logan Square. Raisu on the North Side has been wowing customers. The Parks have wanted to open an upscale restaurant for about five years.
“I convinced them that Chicago’s food scene was missing this,” Pipping said. ”Maybe we can fill a void.”
Sushi fans can taste chef Park’s omakase starting on Wednesday when Omakase Yume opens.