The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

First Look: Takashi

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 14, 2008 4:00PM

2008_01_takashi1.jpgOne of the more anticipated restaurant openings in recent weeks has been Takashi, which opened its doors December 30th at 1952 N. Damen in Bucktown.

Takashi's opening is notable for both the chef behind it and the restaurant it replaces. For Takashi Yagihashi it marks a return to Chicago - where he cut his teeth at the long-gone Les Plumes and Ambria - after winning a James Beard award for his work at Farmington Hills, Michigan's tribute and, most recently, placing his stamp on Okada in Las Vegas' Wynn Hotel. This restaurant is also his seond in the city, after Noodle by Takashi at Macy's on State Street.

Yagihashi's new restaurant is located in the building that most recently housed Scylla. Readers will recall that Stephanie Izzard closed that popular eatery at the end of August in order to relocate to Seattle and to travel. Since then, Izzard has been spotted around town as one of the contestants for Top Chef's upcoming fourth season, and if any of the rumors we've heard turn out to be true, she's acquitted herself quite nicely on the show.

Yagihashi and designer Francois Geneve (who designed Spring) replaced the rose accents of Scylla with lots of gray and beige. This makes the cherry accents of the banquette seating stand out like warm pockets and highlighting a twelve-foot-long tapestry. Upstairs diners will find over their heads an installation of alternating cherry wood and silver upholstered panels arranged to resemble a Tatami mat.

2008_01_takashi_scallops.jpgTakashi's menu is a combination of small and large plates that emphasizes Yagihashi's fusion of contemporary French, American and Japanese styles. Known for creating well-balanced dishes full of contrasting textures that emphasize the natural flavor of the ingredients, Yagihashi has put together a menu that also focuses on seasonality. An example of this philosophy is Yagihashi's winter roll, containing succulent bites of shrimp and leafy mizuna, wrapped in savory prosciutto and served with a light drizzle of hot and sour sauce. One flavor gives way to the next in a seamless transition across the palate.

Sauteéd Maine scallops and soba gnocchi, served with Trumpet Royale mushrooms and a celery root-parmesan foam (pictured) succeeds because of the sum of the dish's flavors. Soy-ginger caramel pork belly is impeccably plated, served with braised daikon and steamed buns.

Takashi's wine list is complimented by sake and beer programs featuring selections from Yagihashi's native Ibaraki Prefecture. So expect to find an good selection of Hitachino Nest beers. The Ginger brew, last week's "Beer of the Week" selection, paired perfectly with the pork belly.

With an average tab of $60 per person, we recommend trying out about four to six of the small plates with a group of friends, as Takashi's menu has something for everyone. Reservations are tight on the weekends, but attainable if you want to wait a while for turnover.

1952 N. Damen
773-772-6170 (website not fully operational at post time)

Open for dinner Tuesday-Thursday 5:30-10 p.m.; 5:30-10:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 5-9:30 p.m. Sunday.

Photos Credit: Tyllie Barbosa.