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Chicago - Meet Your Tokyo
There are very few restaurants in Chicago, where you are treated like friends of the family. You may know what I am talking about. From the moment you walk through the door, you are greeted with a hug by the owner, welcoming you back. The servers recognize you, even if they do not know your name. You comfortably sit back, dining on delicious bites and sipping refreshing drinks, while enjoying the company of your dining companions and not feeling rushed. For me, that is Yusho.
Lead by Example
Like every good business that is successful, you will most likely find a great leader at the helm. The best leaders are not necessarily outwardly vocal, but ones that command a quiet presence. Owner and executive chef Matthias Merges is just that - involved in all aspects of the restaurant, from expediting food orders to providing input for visual pieces. Prior to opening Yusho, Chef Matthias was Chef de Cuisine at famed Charlie Trotter’s for fifteen years, spending almost his entire career in fine dining. He is probably one of the few humble chefs I have come across that lets the food speak for itself, while also showcasing his team’s talents. One interesting tidbit - Chef Matthias is very much a visual person and Yusho’s primary photographer. You can see the love of his craft and how much he cares for his staff, through his portraits and photographs.
Behind him, is a great collaboration of talent, which include a few Trotter alumni. Drink recipes are a collaboration between Chef Matthias and barman Alex Bachman. The wine list is curated by Emily Rodemoyer, primary dish creations headed by Jennifer Petrusky, and amazing desserts created by Andrea Correa.
Fine Dining Meets Street Food
Chef Matthias takes his own spin of fine dining expertise - cooking technique, service, and mixology - and brings it in a casual environment. Yusho is a yakitori-inspired restaurant and can be described as “mixture of japanese street food culture, chicago bar culture, and sheer wit in food preparation”. I would have to agree. While you can find yakitori items on the menu, you will be surprised at the unique takes on traditional ingredients. While the descriptions are simple, the presentation is anything but - very artfully presented and bold in flavor.
To complement the bold flavors, a full drink menu offers beer, wine, sake, and spirits. The stars of the drink menu are the craft cocktails, which utilize homemade syrups and bitters. These cocktails will change depending on seasonal availability of ingredients.
Delicious Food Made Accessible
What makes Yusho so successful is how Chef Matthias makes your entire experience enjoyable, but truly accessible. You can sample a good portion of the menu without breaking the bank. Every dish and drink clearly shows the care that was put into creating it. The best moment was when my husband and I brought his friend and his wife to dine for the first time. As he was eating his bowl of soba noodles, he kept muttering over and over, “This is so good, this is so good”. He probably was a little chatty after ten Rum Punches, but I have not doubt he enjoyed the noodles! My point, is that no matter if it is your first visit or fifth, Yusho will definitely become your go-to for Japanese street food.
Photo credits: Yusho