When Sumi Robata Bar was first announced, Gene Kato said that the Japanese restaurant at 702 N. Wells would have three concepts within its space, but the only one he was talking about was the main robata grill. Today he announced the second: Charcoal Bar, featuring cocktails which make use of traditional Japanese spirits including Japanese whisky and sake, as well as a curated selection of the latter for straight up drinking and Japanese beers, sodas and teas (from Rare Tea Cellar). But at least as notable is who will be manning the intimate 12-seat bar: Matthew Lipsky, formerly known as “Choo” Lipsky though that nickname is notably absent from the materials. Lipsky is probably best-known as mixologist for the short-lived Morso, but he also worked at The Southern and launched Untitled’s cocktail program including a selection of some 300 whiskys.
Charcoal Bar will have a separate entrance from Sumi Robata Bar and be decorated with an irori, the traditional tea kettle hanging over a fire (last seen in Chicago, we believe, at Yanase c. 2000). Both will open later this month; Serious Eats has a conversation with Lipsky about the bar here, and Kato talked about the influence of Japanese art and aspirations toward excellence in our video a few weeks back, which you can watch below.