Slideshow

Preview the Sensuous Japanese Brasserie Dishes at Shin Thompson’s Kabocha, Opening Soon

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“There is no sushi,” Shin Thompson says firmly when we ask about the raw bar at Kabocha, which would be just about perfect for sitting at, watching someone slice fish. There will be, it turns out, composed sashimi plates. But in a city full of not especially distinguishable sushi bars, the former chef/owner of Michelin-starred Bonsoiree intends for his 952 W. Lake Street “Japanese brasserie” to stand above the pack through its artful blend of Thompson’s classical French training and his understanding of Asian, mostly but not strictly Japanese, styles and flavors.

Planned for an opening in late April or early May, Kabocha is done up in subtly sexy grey accented with red and made dramatic by enormous light fixtures from Argentina that look like turbans. It’s also made distinctive by Chicago scenes painted by artist Beth O’Donnell— who happens to be the mom of co-owner Ryan O’Donnell (Gemini Bistro, Rustic House). The use of “brasserie” is meant to set the tone— it’s not formal dining (unless you snag the two-seat kaiseki chef’s table, where a ten-course set meal will be served). But at the same time, like a Parisian brasserie, the kitchen doesn’t kid around. The food is sensuous and gorgeous, yet Japanese notions of restraint and simplicity are unmistakable on the plate.

We popped in with our man Huge Galdones to see how it was progressing and to preview some of the food; his slideshow is below. We also have the latest menu, still subject to change, but reflecting how Thompson sees the restaurant working today.

The restaurant is divided into two halves by a barrier wall— on one side the 20-seat bar and the open kitchen. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
The open kitchen includes a lighted growing area where fresh herbs grow, and at the end, a cozy two-person booth for ten-course kaiseki dinners. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
Booths and tables fill the main dining room, while the raw bar directly behind seats another 10 or so customers. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
Chef Shin Thompson plates in the open kitchen. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
Scallop and crab motoyaki, torched ponzu aioli. The menu includes essentially straightforward versions of classic Japanese dishes like this, executed at a high level of skill. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
And it includes Asian forms reworked with French flavors and techniques, such as these Duck Confit and Fennel Potstickers, which include duck prosciutto, shaved fennel and a sour orange sauce. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
Fried Shishito Peppers & Caramelized Cauliflower with curried artichoke sauce. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
Kabocha, Corn & Apple Soup with toasted chili oil. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
Tuna & Hamachi Mosaic with fines herbes, smoked bacon and pickled shallot. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
Shabu Shabu of Prime Ribeye with enokitake mushrooms and mirin dashi, served at your table. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
Kabocha’s answer to a seafood tower is this spectacularly wild Shellfish Aquarium, with lobster, oysters, scallop, King crab, prawns, squid ink “coral” and seaweed variations, served in a glass box. Photo: Photographer: Huge Galdones/Copyright: Galdones Photography LLC. All rights reserved.
Partners Shin Thompson and Ryan O’Donnell of Kabocha. Photo: Eugene (Huge) Galdones/? 2013 Galdones Photography // All Rights Reserved
Preview the Sensuous Japanese Brasserie Dishes at Shin Thompson’s Kabocha,