Yoshi’s Cafe offers a three-course prix-fixe on Thursday nights for $26.95. Given the quality of the food, the service, and the ambiance, it’s a bargain. Diners who know the restaurant’s history aren’t surprised.
When it opened in 1982, 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 he often said he could hear Banchet’s voice whenever he made the sauces that were the basis for so many of his dishes.
Thirteen 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 for a change.
The game plan was on target, both in concept and in execution. Yoshi’s Cafe expanded into the adjacent storefront, and while the service and food remained impeccable, the mood was more casual and the price point lower.
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 do a blend, thus becoming one of the first restaurants in the city to offer a truly electric menu, just as he had earlier pioneered a blend of French and Japanese cuisine and technique.
Armed with a better understanding of the restaurant and its cuisine, it’s easier to understand why the Thursday prix-fixe at Yoshi’s Cafe is truly special. And on a slightly different note, it’s also readily apparent that-under the watchful eye of Nobuko Katsumura, Yoshi’s wife and partner, and a talented staff- the restaurant has neither remained static nor suffered a decline since Katsumura’s death in 2015.
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 and 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.
Reservations are recommended. And if you want to enjoy dinner with the "regulars," try to snag a seat at the bar. It's definitely a friendly group. Some of them dine at Yoshi's several times a week, but even so, Thursdays are special.
Yoshi's Cafe, 3257 N. Halsted Street, 773.248.6160
Hours: Dinners Wednesday-Sundays. Brunch on Sundays.