The titanic collaboration between Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises and Alinea Group, two of Chicago’s best known hospitality groups, to resurrect a French classic has a casualty. LEYE confirms that Naoki Sushi, its nearly four-year-old upscale Japanese restaurant inside the Belden-Stratford apartment building in Lincoln Park, will soon close to make way for the new Ambria.
Naoki will close on December 21, according to a Lettuce Entertain You representative, as “major renovations” begin to transition the space into the new version of the beloved French restaurant that closed 12 years ago after a 27-year run. The rep doesn’t have more information at this time.
Naoki opened in early 2016 as a restaurant inside a restaurant, offering upscale sushi before the current omakase wave hit the Chicago dining scene. It initially shared a space inside the Belden-Stratford with Intro Chicago, LEYE’s restaurant with rotating chefs that encompassed the main dining room from February 2015 to July 2017. Naoki lived on — eventually offering delivery service — after Intro closed to become a private event space. Its upscale sushi garnered glowing reviews from multiple Chicago critics.
The company didn’t confirm whether or not Naoki would live on through deliveries. LEYE has experimented with virtual restaurants in Lincoln Park, so its sushi could conceivably stay available via delivery service. Lettuce also runs Sushi-San in River North, a much more casual Japanese experience than Naoki.
The Ambria resurrection is a noteworthy one. Alinea chef Grant Achatz, in partnership with the Melmans of Lettuce Entertain You, will modernize the restaurant’s classic French dishes inside the historic building at 2300 N. Lincoln Park West. The hospitality titans hope to reopen the restaurant early next year, and Naoki will soon go away to make room.