Word came last night that the new version of Bonsoiree, led by Beverly Kim (Aria, Top Chef) and her husband Johnny Clark and with Rachael Lowe (Sixteen) as sommelier, is closing. Eater reports that Kim and Clark are leaving the Logan Square restaurant, which reopened with them in charge in August, in what was described as a mutual and amicable split. The last day for their menu will be October 13 and anyone holding tickets after that date can either request a refund or reschedule for a date before then. It is unclear at this point whether the restaurant will reopen under another chef or simply close; owner and chef of the original Bonsoiree Shin Thompson is continuing on another project near Randolph Street which is set to open in early 2013. So what happened with this ambitious reconcepting with a chef fresh from TV fame?
We attended a preview dinner (with our man Huge Galdones, who shot this slideshow at the same time) and were mostly impressed and a few times wowed by the unapologetically authentic, refined Korean food on offer. As we said at the time, “There are restaurants, very fine ones, which take dishes recognizable to westerners and give them an Asian spin with new spices and ingredients… [Bonsoiree] is not one of those.” We liked the alienness of the meal, but then we like that kind of experience; we were less certain that there was a big audience for a Korean tasting menu at what were (if you weren’t a media guest) pretty substantial prices, and without many of the luxe ingredients that would commonly be used to justify a high tab in an Asian restaurant.
Bonsoiree under Shin Thompson was definitely pricier toward its end than when it began, but even so being BYO made it, like Schwa or EL Ideas, a relative fine dining bargain, and it only arrived at higher prices as it got better and its neighborhood clientele grew up with it. Bonsoiree 2.0 started out at a much higher level, not merely for ticket prices but for the wine pairings which put an evening there with tip well above $250 per person (at least before a shorter, less expensive menu was introduced). It was a calculated risk at launching a place at a Next-level of cost and exclusivity, and it may simply be that the neighborhood, the cuisine, and the high level of talent working in the place couldn’t attract enough business fast enough to make it sustainable.