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Bar Kumiko | kikkō

Bar Kumiko | kikkō
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  • Bar Kumiko | kikkō

    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2019, 8:50 am
    Post #1 - March 22nd, 2019, 8:50 am Post #1 - March 22nd, 2019, 8:50 am
    The drinks were one of the highlights of our trip to Oriole way back when, so I was looking forward to the adjunct sorta-omakase bar Kumiko. It's a beautiful small space, and the dishes and drinks are presented with a similar eye toward striking minimalism and plating. Many of the cocktails were inspired by more traditional drinks but used Japanese ingredients - whisky, tea, sake - in place of some of the more familiar components, which was a nice twist. But jeez, $17-$21 a cocktail? That's harsh, even accounting for ingredients. We each ordered one of the cocktail "flights," which were novel but similarly steep - $20 or so gets you essentially one modest cocktail plus small tastes of two of the base components. As for the small bites, $8 a little pork bun or prawn tempura adds up really fast for something that is not even remotely filling, no matter how tasty, and given the entrees (as such) were pushing $30 we were concerned they would be similarly petite and passed. (There is no price listed online for the omakase menu, but I can only guess.) So yeah, it was a nice experience, the service was fine, it was relaxing ... but it was over in a snap and, over $100 out for a couple of drinks and essentially appetizers, we headed right to St. Lou's down the street for something more substantial at literally a third of the price (and where drinks at Moneygun next door are $10). What can I say? I'm a barbarian.

    630 W Lake St
    Chicago, IL 60661
    (312) 285-2912
  • Post #2 - May 15th, 2019, 11:42 am
    Post #2 - May 15th, 2019, 11:42 am Post #2 - May 15th, 2019, 11:42 am
    Kikko, a basement bar below Japanese-style cocktail bar Kumiko, opening next week ... story.html
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard
  • Post #3 - May 26th, 2019, 10:19 am
    Post #3 - May 26th, 2019, 10:19 am Post #3 - May 26th, 2019, 10:19 am
    Bar Kumiko was just named the fifth best new restaurant in the U.S. by Food & Wine Magazine and, courtesy of the Lovely Dining Companion, we were there on Friday, the third night of the new downstairs omakase service, otherwise known as kikkō. To say that this place has had a lot of buzz would not be inaccurate; we really enjoyed Oriole and think Noah Sandoval is a great talent, so we were curious to see how it was for ourselves.

    Although we got there about 5:20 pm and although the upstairs room (completely invisible from the entrance) was open, we were kept waiting in the tiny “lobby” until almost exactly 5:30. It would have been nice if they allowed people to wait at the bar or at seats in the upstairs room rather than crowd around in a lobby with no seats and virtually no room to stand. Come 5:30 and we were led through the main room and downstairs into a small, austerely decorated room set up as a sushi bar. There are ten seats in one long row and a handful of staff preparing the food with a few others serving the drinks/pairings. The room is kept fairly dark, the lighting quite low, and there is a pretty eclectic sound track (a little loud at times). Service throughout was excellent and the pacing just about right. (It should be noted that they have three seatings, 5:30,7:30, and 9:30. They managed to complete our 5:30 service and get us out around 7:20 or 7:25.

    Despite a specific inquiry, they declined—entirely their right—to tell us anything about the food. I asked because it had a bearing on what I would choose to drink. As this post will show, it’s a fairly traditional omakase, emphasis on seafood. (Sadly, traditional omakase, such as we once had at Matsumoto, seem to have pretty much disappeared. Most of what’s available now is heavily seafood or sushi-centered.) We were ultimately puzzled by the menu presented to us at the end of the meal, however. Most of the printed descriptions said something similar but distinctly different from what the chef making it and presenting it to us said. They may want to work on that. (As it happens, LDC does not eat raw seafood, and they made several extremely thoughtful substitutions. The fact that they were able to modify her printed menu to indicate the substitutions suggests that they could just as easily have corrected the many discrepancies between what we received and what the menu said we received.) As a record of the meal, the printed menu is surprisingly off. We completely understand that deliveries and other things can affect what gets made every night; we also understand that this was the third night of service. We look forward to this particular kink getting worked out.

    the room

    (Note to phone camera enthusiasts: these pictures are the perfect illustration of the shortcomings of phone cameras. The room was dark and the lighting, though convenient and directly above the dishes, was low and very yellow. These pictures are lousy but there are limits to editing and they illustrate why, if you want great pictures, you use a “real” camera.)

    Course 1
    poached scallop with kombu butter and caviar
    (The printed menu described this as a cured scallop with finger lime and yuzu kosho. I think that that description is wrong since it would have been impossible not to taste the yuzu kosho and there wasn’t any. And if there was any lime present, it got by me entirely.)

    Course 2
    Ora king salmon with a house-made togarashi, a tiny sesame crumble (like a tiny cracker) and brushed with shio koji
    Absolutely nothing to criticize. I’m not a salmon fan generally but this dish was ideal in just about every way.

    Course 3 (nigiri in three servings)
    i) torched kinmedai with shio koji and wasabi, house-made pickled ginger
    Beautiful piece of fish. Between the colors and the low light, this picture hardly makes it look like much but it was one of the stars of the evening: a really wonderful piece of fish, the torching adding just enough “cooking” to it and the shio koji a great complement.

    ii) roasted scarlet (carabineros) prawn with scallion salad and grated egg yolk
    Never heard of or had this kind of prawn. Not large but stunning in color; darker and richer in flavor than most prawns I’ve had…. After finishing the dish, I was still noting the contribution of the grated yolk…. An unexpected, but well-conceived finishing touch.

    iii) Santa Barbara uni with smoked soy and yuzu kosho glaze, toasted genmai
    The glaze complemented the richness of the uni beautifully, adding just the right salty touch and the addition of the toasted genmai, imho, was genius, adding an unexpected and exactly right crunch when you least expected it

    Course 4
    house-made tofu with pickled green almonds, a ramp salad, and house-made ponzu
    One bite made clear that this was house-made tofu; if you’ve been lucky enough to have house-made tofu anywhere, you can spot it instantly…. The ponzu was remarkably rich and savory and my only regret is that, since they necessarily pour it over the already prepared presentation, there is no time for the tofu to soak up the sauce. Not my favorite dish, but that speaks to my palate, not the dish.

    Course 5
    poached Atlantic mackerel, kombu sabayon and nasturtium
    Between the cooking method and the difference in kind of mackerel (versus the more common Spanish mackerel), this was surprisingly un-fishy. One of the best mackerel plates I’ve ever had. The kombu sabayon, though wonderfully rich, was an ideal foil for the fish, making this—at least for me—an unexpected hit of a course.

    Course 6
    wagyu, pickled gooseberries, golden mushrooms (cordyceps) and micro shiso
    What’s not to love? Though I’ve had more than enough A5 Miyazaki wagyu where the fat was more forward than I personally care for, this was just about the perfect piece in my mind. The gooseberries were just present enough for the acid to cut the extraordinary richness of the meat and as to the mushrooms…well, there’s a reason they’re so well-established as a side for beef.

    Course 7
    milk toast with fermented honey ice cream and truffle
    This was prepared like a crème brulée with a torched sugar crust; I thought that the fermented honey ice cream really made the dish; the truffle was a clever touch, offsetting some of the sweetness of a dish that was far sweeter than what would be found in a traditional Japanese dessert. (To the best of our knowledge, although milk bread is well-known in Japan, milk toast—a la this presentation—is an invention and not Japanese. Not that it matters because (a) it was delicious and (b) who cares.).

    An excellent dinner. We thought that the portions were just about exactly right in every case and we both left the restaurant feeling as if we had had precisely the right amount of food. Neither of us was hungry then neither of us became hungry later. Even more important, neither of us was uncomfortably stuffed, as has been the case more than once with some tasting menus.

    A note on the beverage “selection.” For a place that prides itself on its beverages (we have not yet eaten upstairs), the selection was pitifully small. There are five separate pairing choices (alcohol-free, sake only, or sake with wine, with spirits, or with cocktails) but only seven other choices total. Of those seven, three are entire bottles of sake (which, in the interests of clarity we should note are 300 or 400 ml, compared to 750 for a standard bottle of wine). The sum total of remaining choices are beer (one), wine (two), and champagne (one). I would have loved to have sake with my dinner but I find that pairings, no matter how brilliantly done and no matter what else they may offer, also end up being far too much alcohol over the course of a meal. So my choice was extremely limited. To offer not a single sake by the cup for an omakase is inexcusable. Not everyone may be interested, for any number of reasons, in spending $60 to $111 on a bottle of sake. And yet I may not want beer or wine with my omakase; even if I do, a single champagne, a single white, and a single red is a very meager selection. In addition, other than a few teas, non-alcoholic drinks are virtually non-existent, other than a complete pairing. LDC can’t drink alcohol and didn’t want an entire pairing; she had a couple teas to choose from. Period. This aspect of the experience was enormously disappointing, particularly considering they advertise this as an omakase and it’s enough to make me hesitate long and hard about returning, which is a pity considering the quality of the meal.

    One final nit, but this is a positive nit (if there is such a thing). I’ve lost track of the restaurants we’ve been to that should know better. If you’re going to serve an ingredient with a foreign name, make sure the staff knows how to pronounce it. I can’t even begin to say how many places don’t spend any time or effort on this. Either the staff at kikkō is all well-versed in Japanese ingredients or someone spent some time making sure they knew how to say things properly and, yes, Virginia, it does make a difference. In addition to the respect it shows for the food, there are times when servers or staff are winging it, I don’t know what I’m eating. Kudos.

    For those who worry about such things, there wasn’t a lot (if any) molecular gastronomy stuff going on. They took traditional ingredients—tofu, togarashi, yuzu kosho—and added some modern twists and unexpected ingredients and came up with some very creative dishes. They tried to adhere to some sushi bar-type vibes—no shoyu, the chance to chat with the chefs (sorta…they were pretty busy), oshibori to wipe your fingers, no forks (except for the wagyu), freshly grated wasabi; house-made pickled ginger, and so on.

    If it were a matter of the food alone, I wouldn’t hesitate to return. We were uniformly impressed with all aspects of the meal, especially the quality and taste of the food. Each course is well thought-out and an interesting take on traditional Japanese cuisine—different while still remaining quite grounded in classic preparations and takes. We enjoyed that as well as the different components to each dish, the beautiful presentations, and the amount of food offered. Maybe the beverage selection will be modified…I can only hope so.
    Gypsy Boy

    "I am not a glutton--I am an explorer of food." (Erma Bombeck)
  • Post #4 - May 27th, 2019, 12:37 pm
    Post #4 - May 27th, 2019, 12:37 pm Post #4 - May 27th, 2019, 12:37 pm
    surprised they dont have a full drink menu downstairs. their drinks are delicious. seems like such a waste.
  • Post #5 - June 17th, 2019, 12:38 pm
    Post #5 - June 17th, 2019, 12:38 pm Post #5 - June 17th, 2019, 12:38 pm
    Dropped by here last weekend for a few cocktails and small bites before heading off into dinner.

    4 cocktails, 2 oysters with caviar, 2 without, and 2 steamed buns with I believe short rib inside.

    All were incredible. It all felt like incredibly elevated takes on what a normal standard bar cocktail and bar food would be. That being said, far from cheap. Post-tax and tip it sits just under $200 total.

    Really enjoyed checking it out, but at the price point for what you're given it's hard to say I'll find time to come back here again any time soon.

    Great for a special occasion.
  • Post #6 - June 24th, 2020, 7:21 am
    Post #6 - June 24th, 2020, 7:21 am Post #6 - June 24th, 2020, 7:21 am
    Chef Mariya Russell, who became the first Black woman to earn a Michelin star for her work at Kumiko/Kikko, is leaving that dual-concept restaurant. ... story.html
    Never order barbecue in a place that also serves quiche - Lewis Grizzard