Otto Phan, the sushi chef who decamped from Austin with Michelin stars in his eyes to make it big in Chicago, throws open doors to his eight-seat Logan Square omakase sushi counter tonight. Kyōten resys are live via Tock (guests can reserve at 6 or 8:45 p.m.), and Phan is charging $220 for his roughly 20-drop seasonal chef’s choice menu, which involves ocean animals mostly flown in from Japanese markets in Tokyo and Fukuoka.
Here now, the first look inside Kyōten’s tiny Joel Berman-designed interior, cleanly dressed with a blonde wood bar and unadorned cream walls. The minimalist aesthetic here is meant to both mimic the simplicity in Phan’s sushi, and also to create a non-distracting backdrop so guests can focus on what’s on the plate. Or, in this case, the bar.
And what’s on the plate is a serious study of sushi, unlike any other that presently exists in Chicago, and that’s including newly-minted Omakase Yume. The hallmark of Kyōten is Phan’s meticulous dedication to perfect rice—unquestionably the most important component of any sushi experience. At Kyōten that translates to a chubby, and quite expensive varietal called Inochi no Ichi, that’s steamed and fluffed twice for every service, so customers never eat rice that’s more than one hour old. Further, Phan then divides every batch of rice, seasoning each with different ratios of aged red vinegar, along with a bit of sugar and salt.
In terms of progression, guests can expect a somewhat atypical approach to omakase sushi in that the meal will begin with nigiri, move into otsumami (appetizers), then flow back into nigiri. Typically, an omakase experience begins with otsumami, then moves into nigiri. At Kyōten, dinner will commence with more delicately-flavored fish atop more modestly-seasoned rice, and after the mid-otsumami series, the second slate of nigiri will feature more boldly-flavored, fattier fish atop rice with a more assertive vinegar taste. The reasoning here is that the acidity balances the richness of the fish without overpowering or under-powering it.
But starting tonight Eaters can come in and see for themselves. And if they don’t want to drop $90 on a daiginjo sake pairing, feel free to BYOB for $50 corkage.
Kyōten, 2507 W. Armitage Avenue, (312) 678-0800, seatings at 6 p.m. and 8:45 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.