From Michelin-starred chef Shin Thompson, formerly of Bonsoirée, and Ryan O’Donnell, restaurateur and owner of the award-winning Lincoln Park dining destinations Gemini Bistro and Rustic House, comes Kabocha, Chicago’s first Japanese brasserie. With its name inspired by a favorite squash prepared for Thompson by his mother—who is originally from Japan—Kabocha’s menu will be a unique blending of modern American, Japanese influence and classic French technique.
“The feel will be a high-energy, bustling atmosphere while still being elegant,” says O’Donnell. And on his partnership with Thompson, he recalls “When I dined at Bonsoirée a couple years ago, I was blown away by the food. I knew then there was partnership possibility between myself and Shin.”
Located at 952 W. Lake, in the heart of the city’s West Loop restaurant district, Kabocha will highlight Thompson’s modern approach to the rich traditions of Japanese cooking while also showcasing the progressive-American style for which he has become known. A couple dishes last seen on Thompson’s menu at Bonsoirée will make an appearance at Kabocha, including Duck, Duck, Goose, a dish that pairs two preparations of duck with gooseberry jam and foie gras, and Thompson’s signature dish of Scallop & Crab Motoyaki, baked in a scallop shell and served with ponzu aioli.
The 100-seat dining room was by designed Chicago’s Ruthie Stebbins of RHSID in collaboration with O’Donnell and New York-based designer Paul Davis. Working with existing brick and timber construction, the team added chiseled tile walls, custom stained wood paneling and shutters, modern woven chandeliers, glass tear drop pendant lighting and multi-media artwork from artist Beth O’Donnell (Ryan’s mother). The space will feature an open kitchen, 20-seat marble-topped bar, chrome and lacquered tables and intimate booth seating. Table tops are sure to dazzle with white china, woven Chilewich placemats and artisan-crafted serving pieces designed by Thompson.
For guests looking for a truly distinctive and intimate dining experience, there is the Kaiseki table for two. Made private by Japanese sliding screens and located directly off the kitchen, guests can reserve the best spot to scope out the chefs in action—through a one-way mirror—and be treated to a multi-course tasting menu created especially for their visit.
Kabocha is located in the West Loop at 952 W. Lake (entrance on Morgan). For more information, visit KabochaChicago.com.