Rakki Cafe, the Wicker Park sweets shop that specializes in Asian flavors — like matcha soft serve ice cream — will soon start serving more than dessert. Owner Johnny Lee has unveiled a small menu of Japanese curries and noodles that will change. Lee, known for his Hainan chicken in Los Angeles, said it’s difficult to find tasty versions of these Asian dishes in America, even on the West Coast.
The savory menu could launch on Wednesday. For now, Rakki — which opened last year at 1375 N. Milwaukee Avenue — will serve a trio of entrees with few rotating specials. “I just wanted to start small and see what we can handle first,” Lee said.
There’s gyudon (a beef rice bowl), gyu udon (beef noodle soup), and a Japanese-style curry with beef or chicken. Lee calls his cooking “Japanese-inspired.” While Japan is where many of the items originated from, Lee also tends to weave in flavors or techniques from other parts of Asia in his foods. The rotating specials may include katsu or tomago sandwiches, mazemen (broth-less ramen), and wagyu donburi. Lee was showcasing a pretty piece of luxurious A5 wagyu beef on Instagram last month. He’s eager to experiment.
Lee has explored Chicago’s Asian restaurants and has visited Mitsuwa Marketplace, home of a Pan-Asian food court in suburban Arlington Heights. He’s found good udon there, dishes that compare to LA, where there’s a larger Asian population and more Japanese restaurants. One of Lee’s goals is to bring more quality and unique Asian items to Chicago.
The savory foods will be available during Rakki’s regular hours. While Wednesday is the targeted date for unveiling the new items, it could be pushed back later this week.