Yūgen the highly anticipated West Loop restaurant is a thing of beauty

Yūgen the highly anticipated West Loop restaurant is a thing of beauty

Yūgen, in Japanese translates to “a profound, mysterious sense of the beauty of the universe."

A wonderful name for a restaurant but a lot to live up to.

The just opened Yūgen restaurant with Mari Katsumura at the helm occupies the former space that Curtis Duffy's three-Michelin-starred restaurant Grace once called home at 652 W. Randolph.

Interior of Yūgen Chicago

Interior of Yūgen Chicago

Katsumura, a Chicago native who most recently worked with Matthias Merges and Graham Elliot at Gideon Sweet in the West Loop joins forces with former Grace owner Michael Olszewski for what she describes as a Japanese-French concept.

Yūgen officially opened their doors for business on November 20, 2018.  Guests can choose from two distinctive options.

Option one is a 10-course tasting menu with a $205 price tag along with an optional beverage pairing menu at $135. Don't tell anyone but, if you ask, there is also a sake tasting menu. Tasting menu and pairings are served in the 68-seat dining room that overlooks Yūgen's spacious state-of-the-art kitchen.  

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The evolving tasting menu features dishes such as Suzuki Sashimi (Japanese Citrus, Blue Shrimp, Cucumber), Shabu Shabu (Miyazaki Wagyu, Chicories, Sweet Sesame) and Kurobuta Tonkatsu (Timeless Praire Orchard Apples, Almond, Pig Ears.) plus a vegetarian option.

Option two is the more casual and budget-friendly Kaisho--a 20-seat bar/lounge with wine and craft spirits along with a selection of small plates and appetizers. Kaisho is located at the front of the Yūgen space and offers comfortable seating and a welcoming fireplace--plus it stays open late (for those suburban types who may have over-indulged and don't want to LYFT home--the restaurant is easy walking distance to Ogilvie Transportation Center--just get there before 12:30 and 12:40 depending on what direction your train is heading).

If you miss the train, check out the Ace Hotel-in nearby Fulton Market.

We were treated to a taste of the cuisine Tuesday at the Grand Opening Party for friends, media and the industry. We liked what we saw, what we ate and what we drank. Here's a look.

Scallop tartare with orange cream and Fresno chili Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Scallop tartare with orange cream and Fresno chili Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The heat from the chili pepper with the coolness of the scallop spiked with an orange cream is the perfect foil of hot and cold.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Lush and sweet, the pawn offers a subtle ocean flavor topped with caviar and chives making for a fresh take on the French-Japanese fusion mission of Yūgen.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The grilled chicken thigh with pepper sauce features a crispy skin with a juicy interior served with a well balanced dipping sauce offering a hint of heat.

We sampled a host of other tastes including sweet potato veggie chips with a subtle dipping sauce (pictured at the top of the post): west coast oysters, tamago, sake, wine and craft cocktails.

Chef Katsumura uses a blow torch to create a Japanese tamago egg brûlée: Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Chef Katsumura uses a blow torch to create a Japanese tamago egg brûlée: Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

The party soon moved to the kitchen where we could get up close up and personal with the food and prep. We were able to sample a variety of bites from steaming hot soup dumplings to seaweed salad and grilled eggplant along with a trio of desserts as soon as they were placed on the counters.

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Photo: Carole Kuhrt-Brewer

Honoring Zen ideology, the menu reflects balanced ingredients in their simplest form with a contemporary vibe that is thoughtfully harmonized using avant-garde techniques and Midwestern ingredients.

     Special Bites Around Chicago

Nothing chases chills like a hot bowl of soup, so the recent opening of a third Ramen-san is especially timely. Like its siblings, the newcomer menus long- running hits such as Kimchi & Fried Chicken ramen bowls and 12-hour Pork Tonkatsu,  in addition to spot- on newcomers.matzo-ball

Consider, for example, the Miso Matzo Ball Ramen, a comforting mash-up of Japanese fish ball soup(oden) and chicken matzo ball soup, the Lobster Dumplings served with black vinegar soy and chili threads, or the Karaage Chicken Nuggets  paired with a bright lime kasha aioli.

Ramen-san, 165 E. Huron, 312.767.4075

tea-and-trayEno Wine Room In the InterContinental Chicago Hotel recently launched Tea with a Twist ($39). Served on Saturdays from 1-4 pm, the tea includes a traditional three-tiered tray featuring a mix of sweets and savories, as well as a choice of  loose-leaf teas from Rishi(TM) Tea and Botanicals.

Eno Wine Room in the InterContinental Chicago Hotel, 505 N. Michigan Ave., 312.321.8747

Vie Restaurant in Western Springs is doing the Christmas edition of "Burger Night" ($40) on Sunday, December 23. Limited to the Sundays before Thanksgiving and Christmas, the event focuses entirely on burgers layered with a mouth watering array  of toppings. Dessert is all about sundaes. Envision s'mores made with fudge sauce and an apple churro that partners ice cream with a spiced apple compote.

Vie Restaurant, 4471 Lawn Ave., Western Springs 708.246.2082.

On Wednesday December 12, Twain's Chef Tim Graham will team with Chef Michael Lunsford of Kinetic Ferment Co. for a four-course dinner made with select items from the  company's product line. Kinetic, which launched in Chicago in 2016, currently offers a mix that includes small-batch beverages, condiments, miso, raw vinegar, koji, kimchi and other seasonal fermented produce. Chef Michael will discuss his creative outlook on fermentation as guests enjoy Chef Tim's umami-jammed dishes. The cost is $65 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Twain, 2445  N. Milwaukee Avenue (Logan Square), 773.697.8463.

Artango Bar and Steakhouse in Lincoln Square is doing a three course prix-fixe on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Executive Chef Saul Roman's menu includes an appetizer, entree and dessert for $55 per person, $20 for children 6-12. Appetizer options include lobster bisque, empanadas and ceviche, and for dessert, there's chocolate mousse cake, flan, cheesecake and Argentine gelato. As for the main course, there's NY strip steak, quinoa risotto, duck breast and grilled salmon. Guitarist Guillermo Sebastian Paolisso of Buenos Aires will perform Latin jazz, Argentine folklore, Brazilian bossa nova and Argentine tango from 8-10 p.m. on December 24 and from 5-9 p.m. on December 25.

Artango Bar and Steakhouse  872.208.7441

Brownie Day at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel is Saturday, December 8. From noon to 1 am, guests will participate in a holiday brownie decorating class, at the end of which, they'll receive an official "Brownie Decorator Certificate," in addition to a "Bake at Home Palmer House Original Brownie Kit." To reserve a space, call 312.917.3404.

Palmer House Hilton Hotel, 17 E. Monroe 312.726.7500.

With no cover, The Country Club Chicago has become Christmas Club for the holidays, catering to individuals and groups celebrating the holidays with specialty drinks, food and more. Its two floors and three party rooms individually decorated from the floor to ceiling will welcome guests and visits by Santa Claus and other holiday characters through the new year.

Christmas Club – “Wrigleyville’s Original Christmas Pop-Up” (Formerly The Country Club) 3462 N. Clark Street Monday – Friday: 4 p.m. – 2 a.m.  January 1, 2019.

A new immersive experience Wrigleyville Winter Wonderland pops up at 947 W. Roscoe, at the corner of Roscoe and Clark, on Saturday, Dec. 15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 from 2 – 8 p.m. Wrigleyville Winter Wonderland is four heated geodesic domes, from Synergeo Domes, that features interactive seasonal experiences. Admission is free and food and non-alcoholic beverages are available for purchase.

Wrigleyville Winter Wonderland, 947 W. Roscoe,

Filed under: Chicago restaurants

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    Carole is an arts, entertainment and food journalist. She writes "Show Me Chicago" and "Chicago Eats" for ChicagoNow and covers Chicago places and events for Choose Chicago (City of Chicago) as well as freelancing for a variety of publications.


    I started writing when I was in grade school. And when I wasn’t writing or thinking about writing, I was reading what someone else had written. So it wasn’t a stretch for me to think about writing as a career. Neither was it a stretch to think about writing about food, a subject I’d always found interesting, more in terms of history, cooking, restaurants and culture than eating and critiquing. Decades after selling my first story, my interest in writing about food continues, and “A Bite of Chicago” gives me another opportunity to pursue my passion with people who share it.

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