I only had a short weekend to Chicago and had plenty to do so didn’t really have much time. Unfortunately there was no trip planned for Alinea, however Ajit suggested the very swank and busy Japonais. I’m always up for trying everything so Ajit booked it in with a lot of us.
Located by the river in Chicago, it obviously was a popular location. Plenty of tables and many of them full for the duration of our dinner obviously indicated it seemed to be one of the go-to places of the moment. It felt like it was trying to be a bit like Hakkasan, but seemed a bit frantic instead of the cool interior charm.
After almost no sleep in 24 hours, I found the intensity of all the questioning from the attendants honestly a little bit overwhelming but it was good that we could share a few of the starter dishes. I’m not really sure what this dish was involving fish and I can’t seem to match it to anything on the menu.
This one was the Ahi Tuna Ceviche – I love yuzu and this was one marinated with some white soy. The contrast between sharp citric and salty soy was great and didn’t overpower the tuna.
I think this is the Wagyu Robata – Smoked american wagyu-style with green and white asparagus, and wasabi ginger ponzu. The ponzu sauce worked really well. The shavings of green and white asparagus didn’t really do that much, even for texture.
Who doesn’t like steamed buns can just leave the room now. We ordered these Manju buns filled with braised pork, scallions and a sweet sour sauce. I made the mistake of trying the buns with the sauce and they were perfect without it. Unnecessarily weird fusion food going on here. I’d order these again and then just leave the sauce.
The Chilean seabass cartoccio arrived wrapped in plastic before the parcel was opened at the table. Many of the components failed to really work well except for the strong flavoured tomato compote that I was scraping against. Can’t really say that soy-butter really does it for me being surprisingly bland and dreary.
My main dish was the Tuna steak. It was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be (a good thing with all those appetisers) served with a roasted scallion potato puree and picked celery salad. It came with some tempura too FTW. Nicely cooked, delicious fish and plenty of flavours that actually worked well together.
Controlling my urge to order the Japanese Ribs, Gaz did that instead. What arrived was a pretty great sight that I was told tasted pretty good. I’m a bit skeptical to see how much of the red miso BBQ really came through, but they looked pretty darn good.
Overall a pretty great dining experience. I felt you paid a lot more for the atmosphere than necessarily for the food. Being a “western meets Japanese” concept I think they managed to hit the mark with some dishes whilst others definitely need more work on balancing texture and flavour combinations. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
Found at: 600 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago, Il