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#1
Posted January 17th 2013, 8:27pm
Tonight was opening night at Gene Kato's much anticipated Sumi Robata Bar; with a 5:15pm reservation made via Open Table I ended up being the first customer. As my wife was on a business trip I was dining solo; with all the buzz with Mani Te'o I dubbed this my night out with my fake girlfriend. Fortunately I was not trying to impress a date as Sumi did not live up to the pre-opening buzz; while there is potential there were quite a few gaffes; the food was good, but portions small and not good enough to make up for a lack of energy and the missteps.

Sumi occupies a long but narrow space in River North surrounded by hodgepodge of restaurants (within a stone's throw are such various venues as Ed Debevic's, Al's Beef, GT Fish & Oyster, Gino's East - even a Hooters). The front half is bar seating gazing into the kitchen; the seats near the robata grills have plexiglass; the back half occupies the dining room with table seating (there will be al fresco seating available during the warmer months). Although I was first to arrive I was placed at an undesirable seat in the corner of the bar with the plexiglass limiting my view of the kitchen. While the space was aesthetically pleasing, the stool was not the most comfortable and the counter space was cramped (I even bumped my head against the plexiglass while moving my stool forward).

The first service gaffe occurred early on; a woman introduced herself as my server and asked for my water preference (note that waters other than tap incur a surcharge) a few minutes later a second woman ambled over and said she would be my server (this same event played out half hour later when a party of two was seated next to me). Service would best be described as attentive, but a bit nervous and not as warm as would be desired. Busboys also seemed to almost be hovering, ready to snag your plate away the moment you were finished as if it was gold.

It was almost as if Sumi was pretending they had been established for months rather than being excited that they were new; there was not even a single acknowledgement that they were a new venue. This was in sharp contrast to my experience at Goosefoot; my wife and I had the privilege of being the first customers at Goosefoot and the staff, Chef Nugent and his wife (who works as the general manager) were all so excited when we walked in the door. Even though Chef Kato was just a few feet away from me for most of the hour and fifteen minutes I was present tonight, he never uttered a word to me or even made eye contact (maybe he was surprised by my fake girlfriend).

The menu at Sumi consists of cold and hot appetizers, items for the robata grill (divided into vegetables, fish and meats) and desserts; drink wise there are a few cocktails and beers, several wines and sakes, teas, French Press coffee, waters and soda. Be advised that the cocktails are rather sweet, so might not pair best with the food - either have them after dinner or consume them quickly before the food arrives. The meats have a nice mixture of nose-to-tail options (i.e. chicken gizzard and beef tongue) as well as several more vanilla choices (i.e. chicken breast or steak). Each meat has either it's own seasoning or marinade, the robata grill imparts it's own flavor and then you have some seasoning tableside if you desire some extra heat. What was odd was as the server reviewed the menu she commented about items they were "out" of; I am not sure how a venue on opening night can be "out" of anything when I am the first customer (unless they had a really fun staff meal earlier). I guess this was part of their act of trying to portray themselves as an established business rather than taking pride in being brand new and simply stating they do not have the full menu available yet. When I asked if there were any dishes that were recommended my question was dodged.

While the menu items are inexpensive, they are small plate style so you have to order several to fill up; I was advised to order one or two appetizers and five robata items. I ended up adding a sixth item and ordered dessert yet still left a bit hungry. A problem is the robata items are simply served as the protein or vegetable on their own; no accompaniments, no bread service, no rice - nothing to really fill you up (each robata item is a few bites). Also what was really awkward was the robata items are each served on their own plate; the timing was off in that all five of my robata items were served within minutes as well as one of my two appetizers came in the middle - so I had a stack of six plates surrounding a somewhat cramped seating area. I think they need to combine two to three items onto one plate (and preferably add some rice or noodles to make the food more filling) - I am not sure about the tables in the dining room but at the bar area it was just cumbersome and weird to have so many plates at a tiny place setting. Also some of the food became cold as I consumed other dishes so at most three items should be served before additional items are delivered.

Despite the negatives there is some potential; the space is nice and the concept is good (there are not many places like this in Chicago). The quality of the food was above average; everything was cooked well and was rather tasty with the egg appetizer (it was in a nice, sweet broth with roe and mushrooms; wasabi grated atop tableside) and the Japanese version of a beef slider was so delicious I ordered a second (the beef was shaped like a sausage and served in an open steamed bun with miso melted over the top). While I did not order the shrimp, it looked great - a very large head on shrimp served hot off the grill (the people next to me ordered this). The deconstructed crustless apple pie dessert tasted good (especially the caramel) but this too had an awkward presentation (a bowl contains some crumble and sour cream ice cream; next to it is a wrapper with ginger poached Fuji apple slices and caramel, but the caramel sticks to the wrapper as you try to dump it onto the crumble and then the warm apples quickly melt the ice cream). A big issue is they definitely need to make the meal more filling (i.e. add bread service and/or rice or noodles served with the robata items); I paid nearly $100 for my food, one cocktail, one glass of sake, tax and tip and left a bit hungry. Service also needs to be ironed out (understandable for a new venue - but admit you are a new venue and be proud of that and people will be more forgiving). I also think that management needs to be more visible; other than the hostess and waitstaff nobody came over to check on me or inquire about my experience. The restaurant scene in Chicago is so competitive (and River North has become a hotbed for restaurants) that Sumi needs to elevate their game to be a success. I am pulling for them to do well, but based on my experience tonight am not in a hurry to return.

Beverage Menu
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Food Menu
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View From Bar Seating
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Tuna Appetizer with Avocado and Fried Shallot Rings
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Egg Appetizer
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View of my Food Cooking on the Robata Grill from my Seat
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Chef Kato Tending to the Robata Grill
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Shiitake Mushrooms
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Salmon
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Pork Jowl
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Beef Slider
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Duck Breast
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Crustless Apple Pie (After I Assembled it)
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Sumi Robata Bar
702 North Wells (River North Neighborhood)
Chicago, IL 60654
312.988.7864
Reservations Available on Open Table
Website Pending, Facebook Page Active
Last edited by Gonzo70 on January 17th 2013, 11:03pm, edited 3 times in total.
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#2
Posted January 17th 2013, 9:42pm
Not to be confrontational, but do you think the fact that his first customer was snapping pictures of not only his food but also of him personally to post on the web had anything to do with the icy reception you received from the chef?
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#3
Posted January 17th 2013, 9:58pm
It sure looks like a lot of food to me. And I can't recall bread service at any Asian restaurants lately...

Did you ask for some rice or noodles? Do they not carry them?

I, too, am not trying to be confrontational but your "review" is pretty harsh...
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#4
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:00pm
Robata is always served a la carte. Never sides or rice or anything. I don't understand that criticism (or actually most of the ones raised for a restaurant that has been open for only a few hours).

ETA - I'm pretty sure those mushrooms aren't maitakes.
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#5
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:18pm
I remember when I started at my job more than 15 years ago, one I went into with significant experience, and I thought I was fully ready to go on day 1 (though nervous). I look back and cringe at some of my early work. I always take this into consideration when judging anyone and anything's performance early on.
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#6
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:41pm
After all the crap I caught for sounding "entitled" about el ideas... Holy whoa.
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#7
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:44pm
Bperellis wrote:Not to be confrontational, but do you think the fact that his first customer was snapping pictures of not only his food but also of him personally to post on the web had anything to do with the icy reception you received from the chef?


Doubtful; I try to be subtle with the pictures (I just use my iPhone, not an actual camera and do not use flash). Most chefs (there are exceptions) like free publicity so do not mind pictures being taken of their food and venue - some even encourage it (though Dale Levitski would probably side with you). Also I did not see the chef (or anybody other than servers) interact with any of the other patrons. It just did not have a warm, energetic vibe - especially for an opening night.
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#8
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:50pm
boudreaulicious wrote:It sure looks like a lot of food to me. And I can't recall bread service at any Asian restaurants lately...

Did you ask for some rice or noodles? Do they not carry them?

I, too, am not trying to be confrontational but your "review" is pretty harsh...


No, I did not ask for rice or noodles. I just think they need to add something to make the meal heartier. I was just throwing out some filling (but inexpensive) foods, but obviously it would be up to the venue to choose what is best for the style of cuisine they are serving. I am not intimately familiar with this type of cuisine, but what I do know is the meal needs to be heartier without increasing the price. Nearly $100 per/person is a lot of money for dinner; there are many, many venues in Chicago where you can have a high end, filling meal for that price (or less) - so for Sumi to be competitive they will need to address this issue. While it may have looked like a lot of food, I left a bit hungry (certainly not starving by any means, but not full). The food quality was certainly good enough to justify paying nearly $100 per head, but service needs to be smoothed out (understandable for a new venue) and the heartiness of the meal needs to be addressed (also fixable). My review was not meant to be "harsh" - I want Sumi to succeed; I was proffering an honest appraisal by critiquing some issues that can be remedied and make them competitive. They are a work in progress at this point, but if they strive to improve they may very well end up being successful.
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#9
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:56pm
jesteinf wrote:Robata is always served a la carte. Never sides or rice or anything. I don't understand that criticism (or actually most of the ones raised for a restaurant that has been open for only a few hours).

ETA - I'm pretty sure those mushrooms aren't maitakes.


Correct about the mushrooms; I edited the name, they were shiitake mushrooms - thanks for catching that.

This was my first Robata experience; ala carte or not something needs to be done so that a $100 per/person meal is filling. Sumi is located in a hot spot of restaurants and they will not succeed at this price point if they do not find a way to make the meal more filling. Another person (someone sitting a couple seats over from me tonight who I did not know) wrote a review of his experience on another website and also mentioned that he left hungry and found the dining experience somewhat awkward. If you look at my post history you will see that over 95% of my posts about restaurants are positive, so if I am making some negative comments about a venue, it means there are some issues. Fortunately they are fixable issues in this case and since the restaurant is so new, much is understandable. Without constructive feedback though, it is more difficult for a restaurant to improve.
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#10
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:58pm
BR wrote:I remember when I started at my job more than 15 years ago, one I went into with significant experience, and I thought I was fully ready to go on day 1 (though nervous). I look back and cringe at some of my early work. I always take this into consideration when judging anyone and anything's performance early on.


Agreed; as I stated in my review there is potential and the food was generally quite good (which is the single most important aspect of a restaurant as well as the hardest to remedy if not good). Believe me, if this was not opening night I would have been a lot harsher; there were a couple other issues that arose that I left out of my review because of them being brand new and it obviously being attributable to the venue's newness.
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#11
Posted January 17th 2013, 10:59pm
disagree wrote:After all the crap I caught for sounding "entitled" about el ideas... Holy whoa.


What part of my review sounded entitled?
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#12
Posted January 17th 2013, 11:02pm
This talk of "potential" and "work in progress" is hilarious. Wonder how things went in hour 3 of service vs hour 1. I'd love to hear about the evolution of Sumi.
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#13
Posted January 17th 2013, 11:14pm
jesteinf wrote:This talk of "potential" and "work in progress" is hilarious. Wonder how things went in hour 3 of service vs hour 1. I'd love to hear about the evolution of Sumi.


Not sure I understand what you are saying. I often dine at brand new restaurants and most of the time have great experiences. I expect there to be some issues when a restaurant is new. Many restaurants are outstanding from day one. The majority of the ones I have dined at have been good from the get-go, but had some minor (but expected) issues due to their newness. Sumi unfortunately had significantly greater issues than other new restaurants I have frequented. Again, it is nothing that cannot be remedied. I made several positive comments in my review, but for some reason only the negatives are being spoken about. I could ignore all the negatives because they are a new venue, but if I did this and simply praised tonight's dinner it would be a disservice to Sumi and to members of the forum.
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#14
Posted January 18th 2013, 7:05am
My husband and I could not agree more with Gonzo70's review. I believe we WERE that couple sitting next to him last night and everything he said, we would echo. We ordered two drinks, two appetizers, four robatas, and the apple dessert for a bill (with tax/tip) of about $90. And yes, we left still hungry, but I wasn't going to keep spending money until we got full.

We, too, thought the beef slider was the best item we had and wished we got two of them. The skirt was good as was the 'fried chicken'. While the shrimp might have looked good, it was 'you peel' and it was so hot and messy to peel, I wouldn't get it again. The sweet potato fries were one addition that we got that I thought was plentiful and would recommend. There is a cucumber appetizer that was pointless. It was literally a cucumber cut up - no sauce, no spice, nothing.

We had tried Union (right down the street) last year and we had a pretty similar experience with a Robata grill (and yes, I realize Union is not just a Robata grill). You pay a lot and you leave hungry. The difference being that I think Union had a little larger selection of food (and was a bit tastier) and a bigger area to seat people. The con of Union was that I thought the staff was a little rude there - whereas, everyone at Sumi was extremely nice to us. Of course, it was opening night, but still.

I'm not sure my review would change if I went back months from now or not. Personally, I just think that Robata bars are a bit of a rip off b/c of the amount of food you get (given my experience with two of them). I doubt we will be back - despite the fact that it's two blocks from us. While I'm sure they will work out a few of the kinks that Gonzo70 mentioned, I doubt they're going to change their prices or add a little more substance to an item.
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#15
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:05am
Gonzo70 wrote:
disagree wrote:After all the crap I caught for sounding "entitled" about el ideas... Holy whoa.


What part of my review sounded entitled?

Mostly paragraphs 2, 3, and 4.

If the chef had talked with you, I bet you'd have taken your picture with him and posted something else.
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#16
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:06am
jennlynn995 wrote: I believe we WERE that couple sitting next to him last night and everything he said, we would echo. . . .

Personally, I just think that Robata bars are a bit of a rip off b/c of the amount of food you get (given my experience with two of them).

If you think they're a rip off, I'm surprised you'd run over there immediately after they first opened.

In any event, I think it's beyond unfair to run into a restaurant at their grand opening and start judging them. And publishing pictures and critiques of food at this juncture just compounds the problem. And remember, there are humans behind this business at every level (servers, cooks, etc) - they're not machines. So on opening night, perhaps their joy and excitement has been overcome by nerves, wanting to make everything just right, but still being a bit confused. Everyone is different. I'm saddened and stunned to see such harsh criticism from both of you of a restaurant that hasn't even gotten a chance to get their feet wet so to speak.
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#17
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:13am
When did this site become Yelp? Wow.
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#18
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:13am
BR wrote:
jennlynn995 wrote: I believe we WERE that couple sitting next to him last night and everything he said, we would echo. . . .

Personally, I just think that Robata bars are a bit of a rip off b/c of the amount of food you get (given my experience with two of them).

If you think they're a rip off, I'm surprised you'd run over there immediately after they first opened.

In any event, I think it's beyond unfair to run into a restaurant at their grand opening and start judging them. And publishing pictures and critiques of food at this juncture just compounds the problem. And remember, there are humans behind this business at every level (servers, cooks, etc) - they're not machines. So on opening night, perhaps their joy and excitement has been overcome by nerves, wanting to make everything just right, but still being a bit confused. Everyone is different. I'm saddened and stunned to see such harsh criticism from both of you of a restaurant that hasn't even gotten a chance to get their feet wet so to speak.


Is it just me or are the reviews actually not very negative? I definitely want to go based on the conversation here. Looks like it has potential. I will definitely be trying more of the offal stuff though. I also like the looks of the tea selection. Might be a nice place to go when out late for a pick up snack and caffeine.
Last edited by mgmcewen on January 18th 2013, 8:27am, edited 1 time in total.
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#19
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:24am
boudreaulicious wrote:When did this site become Yelp? Wow.


It has been a creeping issue for quite a while now.
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#20
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:38am
jennlynn995 wrote: We ordered two drinks, two appetizers, four robatas, and the apple dessert for a bill (with tax/tip) of about $90. And yes, we left still hungry, but I wasn't going to keep spending money until we got full.


jennlynn (my name too by the way :))

I guess what I'm having trouble with is this--you're at a brand new, River North hotspot from the former chef/owner of Japonais--so I'm a bit puzzled about what you were expecting. The drinks cost you close to $30. So now you're at $60. Assuming you tipped the customary 20% and paid tax--another $25ish. So you're at $50-55 without eating anything. Sad, I know but what can you do--River North, right? Then you order 2 apps, 4 robatas and a dessert--for $40-45--sorry, but that just doesn't sound like a bad deal, even if the "amount" of food wasn't substantial enough for you. I'm guessing you and Gonzo felt you were doing people a service by posting these rush-to-judgment "reviews" but I think, if you read what other people write on this site, this is a bit unusual. Just sayin'.
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#21
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:50am
jennlynn995 wrote:My husband and I could not agree more with Gonzo70's review. I believe we WERE that couple sitting next to him last night and everything he said, we would echo. We ordered two drinks, two appetizers, four robatas, and the apple dessert for a bill (with tax/tip) of about $90. And yes, we left still hungry, but I wasn't going to keep spending money until we got full.

We, too, thought the beef slider was the best item we had and wished we got two of them. The skirt was good as was the 'fried chicken'. While the shrimp might have looked good, it was 'you peel' and it was so hot and messy to peel, I wouldn't get it again. The sweet potato fries were one addition that we got that I thought was plentiful and would recommend. There is a cucumber appetizer that was pointless. It was literally a cucumber cut up - no sauce, no spice, nothing.

We had tried Union (right down the street) last year and we had a pretty similar experience with a Robata grill (and yes, I realize Union is not just a Robata grill). You pay a lot and you leave hungry. The difference being that I think Union had a little larger selection of food (and was a bit tastier) and a bigger area to seat people. The con of Union was that I thought the staff was a little rude there - whereas, everyone at Sumi was extremely nice to us. Of course, it was opening night, but still.

I'm not sure my review would change if I went back months from now or not. Personally, I just think that Robata bars are a bit of a rip off b/c of the amount of food you get (given my experience with two of them). I doubt we will be back - despite the fact that it's two blocks from us. While I'm sure they will work out a few of the kinks that Gonzo70 mentioned, I doubt they're going to change their prices or add a little more substance to an item.


Thanks for chiming in; I was not actually the person next to you as I the people next to me were two men and then I had a wall to my right. One of the men next to me wrote a review on a different website so between his review, your comments and my comments all three of us pretty much had the same experience and feelings about Sumi.
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#22
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:56am
disagree wrote:
Gonzo70 wrote:
disagree wrote:After all the crap I caught for sounding "entitled" about el ideas... Holy whoa.


What part of my review sounded entitled?

Mostly paragraphs 2, 3, and 4.

If the chef had talked with you, I bet you'd have taken your picture with him and posted something else.


LOL, no I would not have taken my picture with him. I have taken some pictures with chefs, but only of my favorite restaurants. If the chef had spoken to me it would have made the overall experience more warm and hospitable; it would not have dramatically changed my impressions, but would have been nice. Not sure why thinking that a chef should acknowledge your presence when the venue was not busy (for nearly half an hour I was the only customer) and I was sitting feet away from the kitchen constitutes being entitled. It is just good business to create a warm, welcoming environment that makes people want to return.
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#23
Posted January 18th 2013, 8:59am
boudreaulicious wrote:When did this site become Yelp? Wow.


How is posting a review of a new venue turn the site into Yelp? Is it that only positive, glowing views are permitted on LTH Forum - if so I apologize and did not know about that rule. Or are new restaurants not allowed to be critiqued? Again, I was not aware of that rule either - how long must a venue be open before it may be reviewed? IMHO so long as you are taking into consideration the newness of a venue when proffering a critique and criticisms are posed in a constructive manner I am not sure why this is a bad thing to write about. Your reaction is a bit perplexing to me.
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#24
Posted January 18th 2013, 9:01am
mgmcewen wrote:
BR wrote:
jennlynn995 wrote: I believe we WERE that couple sitting next to him last night and everything he said, we would echo. . . .

Personally, I just think that Robata bars are a bit of a rip off b/c of the amount of food you get (given my experience with two of them).

If you think they're a rip off, I'm surprised you'd run over there immediately after they first opened.

In any event, I think it's beyond unfair to run into a restaurant at their grand opening and start judging them. And publishing pictures and critiques of food at this juncture just compounds the problem. And remember, there are humans behind this business at every level (servers, cooks, etc) - they're not machines. So on opening night, perhaps their joy and excitement has been overcome by nerves, wanting to make everything just right, but still being a bit confused. Everyone is different. I'm saddened and stunned to see such harsh criticism from both of you of a restaurant that hasn't even gotten a chance to get their feet wet so to speak.


Is it just me or are the reviews actually not very negative? I definitely want to go based on the conversation here. Looks like it has potential. I will definitely be trying more of the offal stuff though. I also like the looks of the tea selection. Might be a nice place to go when out late for a pick up snack and caffeine.


Thank you, I certainly did not mean my review to be negative - and I mentioned several positive aspects in my review. I just wanted my review to be honest and to point out some issues that hopefully the restaurant will remedy - and with them being brand new I am optimistic that they can do so if they are motivated to be successful.
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#25
Posted January 18th 2013, 9:05am
boudreaulicious wrote:
jennlynn995 wrote: We ordered two drinks, two appetizers, four robatas, and the apple dessert for a bill (with tax/tip) of about $90. And yes, we left still hungry, but I wasn't going to keep spending money until we got full.


jennlynn (my name too by the way :))

I guess what I'm having trouble with is this--you're at a brand new, River North hotspot from the former chef/owner of Japonais--so I'm a bit puzzled about what you were expecting. The drinks cost you close to $30. So now you're at $60. Assuming you tipped the customary 20% and paid tax--another $25ish. So you're at $50-55 without eating anything. Sad, I know but what can you do--River North, right? Then you order 2 apps, 4 robatas and a dessert--for $40-45--sorry, but that just doesn't sound like a bad deal, even if the "amount" of food wasn't substantial enough for you. I'm guessing you and Gonzo felt you were doing people a service by posting these rush-to-judgment "reviews" but I think, if you read what other people write on this site, this is a bit unusual. Just sayin'.



Curious why you have reviews in quotation marks, according to you is it only a review if there is no negative content? How exactly do other people write on this site - is there a FAQ on how I am supposed to write a review on this site? I was not aware I was bringing down the LTH Forum by posting a fair, honest review of a new restaurant.
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#26
Posted January 18th 2013, 9:18am
I think folks around here are used to letting a restaurant have at least a few hours under its belt before we get a 1300 word, picture accompanied write-up critical of service issues that could plague 99% of restaurants on opening night.
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#27
Posted January 18th 2013, 9:19am
Gonzo70 wrote:
boudreaulicious wrote:
jennlynn995 wrote: We ordered two drinks, two appetizers, four robatas, and the apple dessert for a bill (with tax/tip) of about $90. And yes, we left still hungry, but I wasn't going to keep spending money until we got full.


jennlynn (my name too by the way :))

I guess what I'm having trouble with is this--you're at a brand new, River North hotspot from the former chef/owner of Japonais--so I'm a bit puzzled about what you were expecting. The drinks cost you close to $30. So now you're at $60. Assuming you tipped the customary 20% and paid tax--another $25ish. So you're at $50-55 without eating anything. Sad, I know but what can you do--River North, right? Then you order 2 apps, 4 robatas and a dessert--for $40-45--sorry, but that just doesn't sound like a bad deal, even if the "amount" of food wasn't substantial enough for you. I'm guessing you and Gonzo felt you were doing people a service by posting these rush-to-judgment "reviews" but I think, if you read what other people write on this site, this is a bit unusual. Just sayin'.



Curious why you have reviews in quotation marks, according to you is it only a review if there is no negative content? How exactly do other people write on this site - is there a FAQ on how I am supposed to write a review on this site? I was not aware I was bringing down the LTH Forum by posting a fair, honest review of a new restaurant.


I don't think anyone has an issue that you posted negative content within your review, it's more the utility provided by the overall review to other users on the site is rather minimal at this point. It was their first night of service, so all of these minor missteps seem like they could have been summed up more succinctly by saying they had some opening night service issues that will need to improve. As you stated, that is expected in a new restaurant and I am not sure how pointing them out in such detail really offers much usefulness to anyone reading your post. You do make valid points in your review about the value of the restaurant, quantity of the food, atmosphere of the restaurant, etc...that is helpful to understand the type of experience someone can expect, but the nit picky stuff detracted from that in my opinion and I think that is leading to the reaction to this post.

I also don't think this a reaction to your post in isolation, but the growing number of instantaneous reviews via sites like Yelp that can bury a restaurant before they even get on their feet, which many find unfair in nature and are entitled to their viewpoint as you are yours. So I think you may be catching some heat as a representation as what some would classify as a growing societal issue.
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#28
Posted January 18th 2013, 10:30am
I was the second customer on their opening as a walk in. I work down the street and have passed the restaurant in various stages of construction for several months now. Knowing that this was their opening night, I knew there would be some jitters, but overall I am looking forward to returning very soon.

Food:
The waitress is very specific as to how many food items a party should order. She recommended two appetizers and then around five robata items per person for a meal. I would say that is a good estimation for an average appetite. Some premium items are going to be more expensive than other items, but altogether the pricing is not too far from other restaurants in the area.

The items I ordered were:
Maguro - bigeye tuna sashimi with white soy, yuzu juice, crispy shallot, avocado and shiso leaf. This was one of the pricier cold appetizers but it was a delicious combination of the different elements. This could easily be shared among two people.
Tomago - soft poached egg marinated with dashi soy, ikura (salmon roe) and table side grated wasabi - by far my favorite dish of the night. Not a share-able portion but very affordable and extremely delicious.
Robata items: duck breast, beef tongue, chicken thigh, pork jowl and beef tsukune slider. Each of these was cooked perfectly and tasted delicious. The beef tsukune slider was unique as it was a ground beef skewer grilled with mustard served on a steamed bao.
Drinks - Roshi and Kensho
The cocktails here are served in glass bottles. While a nice novelty, the glass is unable to keep the beverages at temperature well and for my second cocktail, I had them pour into a glass with some ice cubes. The drinks were good and packed a decent punch but were definitely at River North premium prices.
Dessert - Donato
The donato is a chocolate filled doughnut served with the doughnut hole and a side of a green tea mousse. It was a delicious way to end the meal upstairs.

At the conclusion of my meal, I asked to see the downstairs Charcoal Bar and found the space to be more to my liking. The upstairs is very bright with contemporary music playing. The downstairs was dark and played more jazz. I had one of the custom Rhododendron cocktails prepared by the bartender whom I recognized from Morso. After that drink, I asked him to surprise me with a gin cocktail and he prepared the best Corpse Reviver #2 I have ever had.

All in all, it was a enjoyable experience despite opening night kinks. This is not a cheap place to eat or drink, but if you are willing to splurge a little and follow the waitress' directions, you will not walk out hungry.
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#29
Posted January 18th 2013, 10:32am
The more I think about it, the more I feel this fills an important niche in the downtown area that I've often felt is absent. I missed Yakitori Totto in Manhattan, that refuge in fringes of the urban where you can maintain your sanity after various downtown chores without splurging on a full meal somewhere through rigorous infusions of meat on a stick and sake. Totto was also kind of where chefs liked to hang out on their days off.
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#30
Posted January 18th 2013, 10:38am
Nice reference to current events with your fake girlfriend line in the opening paragraph. Almost reads like a Sula or Nagrant review.

You lost me after complaining about the lack of bread service, though.

In any case, thanks for posting photos of the menu and I hope to check this place out soon. Couldn't find that anywhere online.
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