It’s Thursday night at Yoshi’s Cafe, and the three-course, prix-fixe dinner is $26.95. That’s a bargain for virtually any white tablecloth restaurant in a trendy neighborhood in Chicago. For a restaurant with a pedigree like Yoshi’s Cafe, it’s an even bigger bargain, the equivalent of Christmas in July.
So many restaurants have come and gone since Yoshi’s Cafe served its first scoop of green tea ice cream that even a devotee of the local scene may not know its back story. When it opened in 1980, Yoshi’s Cafe was an elegant, fifty-seat restaurant serving some of the best food in the city. Chef/owner Yoshi Katsumara had worked for acclaimed chef Jean Banchet, and like Banchet, he was a perfectionist.
Ten years later, with his reputation seemingly secure and his revenues ample, Katsumura sensed that the market was changing. Restaurants were opening at a dizzying pace, and the new generation of chefs and diners was increasingly interested in dazzle, scene and celebrity. It was time to tweak the game plan.
Yoshi and his wife Nobuko decided to expand into the adjacent storefront when their tenant’s lease expired. To seamlessly blend the two spaces, the restaurant underwent a thorough renovation. What emerged was a restaurant that was both upscale and casual, a comfortable mix of crisp white linen tablecloths, conversation friendly seating, and a bar area where regulars gathered for dinner and comraderie.
Katsumura planned on offering what he called “the old Yoshi’s” on the weekend, but the “new Yoshi’s” was so successful that he decided to blend the two. As a result, Yoshi’s Cafe became one of the first restaurants to offer a truly eclectic menu with a varied price point.
The mix worked, and for years, Yoshi and Nobuko were always on hand to make sure everything ran smoothly. Three years after Yoshi's death, everything is still running smoothly. The restaurant has neither faltered nor remained static, and Nobuko, with the support of a talented staff, is always on hand to make sure it doesn't.
So what can a diner expect? On a recent Thursday, diners opting for the prix-fixe had a choice of linguini pasta with sautéed duck tenders and a fresh tomato sauce or oven roasted Lake Superior white fish served over sautéed bok choy in an Asian style sauce. Included in the dish were soy sauce, lemon juice, butter and capers. Add an appetizer, dessert, and a $26.95 price tag, and it's easy to see why reservations are a good idea.
Special bites around Chicago
Halloween with a Twist
Kick off your Halloween celebration this Saturday at Artango Bar and Steakhouse in Lincoln Square. Called "Buenos Aires Never Sleeps," the event includes a special menu, a theme cocktail and live music.
Chef Saul Roman's three-course, Argentine-style dinner ($55 per guest) features Asado Argentino , a mixed grill that includes flank steak, short ribs, morcilla, and chorizo paired with homemade chimichurri, Malbec sauce and hand-cut fried potatoes. The meal begins with a choice of empanadas or salad and ends with either flan or dulce de leche cake.
To enhance the mood, there's the La Bruja (the witch) cocktail made with Remy Martin cognac, and live Latin music beginning at 8:30 pm. For reservations, call 872-208-7441 or visit artangosteakhouse.com.
Artango Bar & Steakhouse, 4767 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago
Halloween Specials from the Bien Trucha Group
On Wednesday, October 31, all three Bien Trucha Group restaurants will feature special holiday dishes. Expect Tacos Did de Muertos ($13) made with pork tenderloin cooked in black beans and served with green apple, epazote, radishes and guajillo tortilla. Guests can pair the tacos with holiday themed cocktails. The La Bruja ($12) is made with Oola aloo gin, while the El Jinete Negro ($12) is done with Exotica Blanca tequila and orange liqueur.
Bien Trucha, 410 W. State Street, Geneva
A Toda Madre, 499 N. Main Street, Glen Ellyn
Quiubo, 120 Water Street, Naperville
Filed under: Chicago restaurants