Innovative Dining Group (IDG), the founders and creators of iconic restaurant brands with roots worldwide—BOA Steakhouse, Sushi Roku, ROKU, and Robata Bar—are bringing their highly lauded robatayaki-style concept, Katana, to Chicago (339 N. Dearborn), set to open August 3 in the bustling River North neighborhood.
IDG is operated by restaurateur partners Lee Maen, Philip Cummins and Craig Katz. Renowned for their bold and contemporary interpretations of traditional concepts, the establishment in Chicago comes by way of IDG’s admiration and desire to be immersed within one of the most respected culinary cities, and they have hired celebrated local restauranteur, Jason Chan (Juno, RPM Steak, Naoki Sushi), to head up the new restaurant as general manager and Chicago director.
“Our goal is to immerse Katana within the local community and thriving culinary scene in Chicago. The restaurant has been built with local diners in mind, but we also look forward to being a destination,” says Maen. “We aim to entertain both sophisticated diners with our custom omakase and sushi novices with an emphasis on offering something for everyone.”
Katana captures the essence of authentic Robatayaki, a cutting-edge form of traditional Japanese BBQ, offering the best of both worlds—exceptional raw and cooked cuisine. Guests can look forward to customary styles of Japanese comfort food, featuring robata-style dishes, alongside innovative sushi masterpieces. Ages ago, Japanese fishermen prepared their catch over an open flame and shared with others on oars passed from boat to boat. Katana honors the centuries-old method with a menu that boasts Japanese tapas for sharing, and expertly blends the art of cooking traditions with modern Asian cuisine for a coveted flavor profile.
IDG has enlisted their Los Angeles chefs, Robert Juan and Jose “Junior” Melendez, to helm the new kitchen in Chicago. Melendez serves as executive chef and has been with the IDG family since 2010—he most recently was executive chef of BOA Steakhouse and Katana in West Hollywood. Originally from the Midwest, Juan has returned home as executive sushi chef, having recently served as the executive sous chef of Katana West Hollywood. The duo will work alongside one another in leading culinary efforts in Chicago. Acclaimed local barman, Michael Simon (Acadia, Qui, Carriage House), serves as Beverage Director and will offer hand-crafted and classic cocktails with an innovative twist.
The menu features high-quality ingredients that are served shun (at the peak of seasonality) to deliver superior sushi and robata creations. At the core of Katana’s specialty preparations, bamboo-skewered items are grilled over traditional Japanese ‘bincho tan’ charcoals from the seaside village of Wakayama. The intense heat infuses a rich, smoky flavor into tasty, bite-sized delicacies of seafood, vegetables, meat, poultry and more. The Chicago menu will also feature hearty entrees like whole fish and wagyu tomahawk steak—IDG is the largest West Coast purchaser of protein sourced directly from Japan.
Favorites from the grill include Uni and Fresh Heart of Palm with bonito ponzu and chili oil, Grilled Oysters on the half shell with foie gras and ponzu, Bone-in Filet Mignon Medallions with yuzu kosho, and seared skewers of Chicken Liver, Chicken Heart, Miso Marinated Black Cod and A5 Wagyu Beef. An impressive array of cold dishes available from the sushi bar include modern variations of signature rolls such as Baked Lobster with avocado and asparagus with soy paper, and the White Lotus Roll with rock shrimp, avocado and asparagus topped with albacore and crispy onions in truffled soy. Furthermore, Katana focuses on sourcing a variety of exotic and rare options—sushi and sashimi offerings including Monkfish Liver (Ankimo), Sea Urchin (Uni), Japanese Scallop (Hotate), Sweet Shrimp (Amaebi) and more.
Katana also features a premium Omakase program, in which the chef customizes a menu for each guest. An impressive beverage program rounds out the dining experience featuring any array of sake samplers, a handpicked list of wines, various Japanese beers, whisky and cocktails mixed with premium, seasonal ingredients and fresh-squeezed juices curated by Michael Simon.
The custom 13,000-square-foot space—brought to life by Los Angeles-based Tag Front Architects— transports guests to an utterly chic, yet warm and inviting oasis, surrounded by natural tones and organic elements for an all-around ambient experience. Chicagoans can look forward to components unique to the new location, including a sexy lounge-area and large bar that caters to the after-work power crowd and for local late-night gatherings. The space is complete with a sprawling robata bar, communal-style tables separated by tranquil trees, an eight-seat sushi bar plus an adjacent four-top sushi bar for Omakase, and seating for up to 299 people. Additionally, private event patrons can enjoy the 80-seat mezzanine that divides into three smaller rooms, perfect for intimate dinners, corporate get-togethers, and more. The expansive 500-square-foot outdoor patio overlooks Dearborn St. with seating for 30 people.
IDG is the driving force behind some of the most popular restaurants in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Scottsdale, and has licensed concepts in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Having opened their first Katana concept nearly 15 years ago on Los Angeles’ Sunset Strip in 2002, the Chicago location (339 N. Dearborn St.) is the group’s third spot subsequent to Katana Dubai, which opened in 2015. Furthermore, the group has plans to expand additional concepts to the Chicago market.