A new casual izakaya-style spot in the West Loop neighboring Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Omakase Yume has opened for lunch service and will introduce a dinner menu on Thursday. TenGoku Aburiya, a will feature a menu designed in large part by Omakase Yume chef Sangete Park, and the izakaya is from the same owners.
Park and his team have had to rethink some menu items since the project was first announced in February — before the coronavirus transformed the hospitality industry in Chicago and around the world. They initially planned to offer Korean-style ramen, but refocused noodle offerings to focus on udon, a hefty, wheat-flour noodle.
“We’re expecting to do a lot more takeout in terms of lunch service,” says co-owner Calvin Pipping. “Ramen doesn’t hold up well for takeout — it gets soggy and the textures don’t keep their integrity. Udon gives a bit more consistency from a takeout approach.”
Park’s speed-focused lunch menu proffers several noodle options like Maze Soba” (ground pork, ground fish flakes, seaweed, green onion, chives, minced garlic, sesame seeds, egg yolk, side of rice) and seasonal specials such as cold “Bukkake Udon” (daikon oroshi, kenkasu, kakiage, tsuyu). There’s also a number of donburi, or rice bowls, plus small bites like takoyaki (fried balls of octopus, teriyaki sauce, mayo, bonito flakes).
The finalized dinner menu isn’t yet released, but it’ll focus primarily on binchotan kushiyaki, grilled and skewered items that are cooked over imported Japanese binchotan (a high-heat charcoal). Park weaves the Korean flavors he grew up with into a selection of bar-friendly Japanese dishes like kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and kimchi okonomiyaki (savory pancakes). On social media, ownership writes that “tengoku” translates to “heaven,” while “aburiya” means “grill.”
TenGoku Aburiya will also feature a smattering of kushiyaki options such as gyutan (beef tongue), tsukune (chicken meatball), pork belly, shishito peppers, and more. Other yaki, or grilled dishes, include kalbi and Park’s black cod kama misoyaki, his signature dish at Omakase Yume.
Park has built his Chicago reputation on sushi, so it’s no surprise that a few items like kanpachi aonori (amberjack, seaweed powder, sesame oil) and a chef’s choice sashimi set will also appear on the dinner listing. Drinks, too, are not yet nailed down but Pipping has promised sake, beer, wine, and cocktails such as Japanese highballs. The team hasn’t yet settled on whether or not the restaurant will offer to-go drinks, he says.
At 2,000 square feet, the restaurant — which shares an address at 651 W. Washington Boulevard with its sushi-slinging sister spot — is large enough to give staff some extra wiggle room when it comes to table arrangements. The city’s caps on dining room capacity mean the restaurant can seat about 30 inside, according to Pipping, who says staff are erring on the side of caution when it comes to distancing and table arrangements. TenGoku Aburiya also has a very small outdoor patio space that holds three or four two-top tables. The space has a casual, organic aesthetic with a natural wood bar, walls, and floors, and a spikey bonsai that dwells on a corner of the bar.
TenGoku Aburiya in West Loop is open for lunch and will introduce dinner and drink menus on Thursday.
TenGoku Aburiya, 651 W. Washington Boulevard, Open 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday.