Omakase is trendy in Chicago, and other owners of Michelin-starred Omakase Yume are at work on plans for a new restaurant. The partners behind the sleek and eight-seat essential sushi spot are opening TenGoku, a casual izakaya-style tapas bar with bar-friendly bites like kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and plenty of Japanese-influenced drinks.
TenGoku should open this spring in the West Loop, neighboring Omakase Yume at the same address at 651 W. Washington Boulevard, on the corner of Washington and Desplaines. Omakase Yume chef Sangete Park is helping to create the menu, but he’s more of a consulting chef who will continue to focus most of his attention on the sushi restaurant, according to Calvin Pipping, a partner in both restaurants. Most menu details are still in development, but staff will focus on quick lunch sets for the workday crowd and a larger selection of small plates for sharing at dinner.
There’ll be a significant emphasis on dishes cooked on a grill with binchotan, clean, high-heat coal. Smaller plates include salads, pickles, and some sashimi, as well as Korean-style ramen. TenGoku will also include a key feature in any izakaya — a bar. Pipping didn’t share many details on bar offerings, but promised sake, beer, wine, and cocktails such as Japanese highballs.
The 2,000 square-foot space at 651 W. Washington Boulevard seats 65, a marked difference from the intimate sushi restaurant next door. Though they share partners, the restaurants will operate as separate businesses. Natural wood on the floors, walls, and bar give the space a distinctly organic izakaya feel with a bonsai perched at one corner of the bar. “We’re focused on small sharing plates and creating a very casual place to meet,” Pipping said.
Chicago’s recent ramen and omakase booms have shown that local diners are open to Japanese culinary styles beyond California rolls, but izakayas remain relatively few — Boka Restaurant Group’s subterranean Izakaya at Momotaro in Fulton Market adds a glossy spin to the typically informal watering holes, and Bucktown’s Izakaya Mita features a warm, inviting atmosphere and lengthy, diverse menu with a large sake selection. Owners of vegetarian favorite Mana Food Bar transformed the restaurant into an izakaya-style spot called Yokocho in 2018, but closed the business the next year. Mana is back in action over at Hayden Hall in the Loop.
Stay tuned for updates as the project progresses.
TenGoku, 651 W. Washington Boulevard, Scheduled to open in spring.