Chef Otto Phan is not shy about what he thinks of the current sushi scene in Chicago. "There's no good sushi in Chicago," says Phan. "There's this huge bulls-eye on the city because it's the only Michelin-starred city in the U.S. without a Michelin-starred sushi restaurant. It’s ripe for the picking."
Phan is out to change that. As was first reported by Eater Chicago, he's planning to open a very small (and very expensive) restaurant in Logan Square in August, where he hopes to serve sushi "meant to compete on the world stage."
Currently, Phan runs Kyoten Sushiko in Austin, Texas, a highly respected omakase restaurant, which costs $150 per person without drinks. Phan’s not closing that location, but he is moving to Chicago to focus his energy on this project, which will simply be called Kyoten. "The only person that will make sushi will be me," says Phan, adding that there will only be one other person working in the kitchen with him.
While he says the Chicago restaurant will be similar to what he was doing in Austin, it will be a "souped-up version," with higher quality ingredients. "It will just be better," adds Phan. "I'm charging a significantly higher price than in Austin, so it has to be."
Indeed, the menu in Chicago will cost $240 per person, making it one of Chicago's most expensive tasting-menu restaurants. That’s more than Oriole ($195 for 13 courses) and Smyth ($225 for 12 courses). In fact, you can dine at Alinea, which many people consider the best restaurant in the city, for as little as $175 if you get the 10- to 12-course salon menu. (That said, the 16- to 18-course gallery menu starts at $285 per person, and the kitchen table goes for $385.)
As for why he picked the Logan Square neighborhood, where it will be, by far, the most expensive restaurant, he said it just ticked all of his boxes. "It's a reservation-only concept," says Phan, "so I don't need heavy foot traffic." He currently won't reveal the exact location, but he notes that it will be very small, with only seven seats. He did say, "It's not in the action; it's just outside the action,” referring to Logan Square’s concentration of bars and restaurants.
Phan describes his sushi as minimalist. "I don't want to use the word traditional," says Phan. "Chefs should always push forward, but I consider it modern with an emphasis on simplicity. A sense of purity is very important to me."
We’ll have to wait a few months before we know whether Kyoten will shake up Chicago’s sushi scene, but there’s no doub that Phan has the ambition to create something memorable.
Kyoten is set to open in August somewhere in Logan Square.