Phil Vettel reviews Yūgen

CHICAGO -- Chicago's high-end restaurant roster is now a little bigger with the arrival of Yūgen, which opened in November and features a set menu priced at $205, before beverage, tax and tip.

The dining room doesn't lack for elegance. There are rich charcoal-colored tables, light earth-tone walls and luxurious chairs. A living wall of growing greenery adds a three-dimensional effect and a pastoral feel.

You'll begin with a plate of canapes, which include choux pastry puffs stuffed with mushroom gelee, topped with octopus and truffle; butter-poached crab motoyaki with caviar; and tomago with red togarashi and a bruleed crust. Next up is a very pretty seaweed salad, which includes a tempura-fried oyster.

The crab rice is my favorite on the current menu. Looking like some gift from the ocean, the composition includes cured egg yolk, foamy uni butter, nuggets of king crab, house-made kogi rice, puffed grains and salmon roe. It's a beautiful balance of sweet and savory.

Chawanmushi custard is another bit of elegance, topped with sea urchin and foie gras; and there's a lovely composition of lamb saddle and duck breast, with fermented-pistachio miso and compressed persimmon.

This dessert is called “milk and cookies,” whose speckled-meringue walls hide a surprise package of chocolate, buttermilk mousse and dolce de leche ice cream. Another sweet is the Japanese cheesecake topped with a quenelle of frozen yogurt.

I give Yūgen, 652 West Randolph Street, three stars. Chef Katsumura is heading a kitchen for the very first time in her career, and her work so far has been very impressive.

 

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