This fall, an impressive women-led team will bring Yūgen—a modern-fine dining experience—to Chicago’s premier dining district at 652 W. Randolph St. Helmed by Executive Chef Mari Katsumura, the restaurant will feature contemporary Japanese cuisine in a striking, reimagined space. 

Inspired by Chef Katsumura’s lineage, the word Yūgen represents an evocative concept in the Japanese language, meaning “the power to conjure indescribable appreciation for the simplicity of beauty.” All elements of Yūgen will be guided by this Zen ideology.

“It is a dream to bring a contemporary Japanese concept to life,” says Katsumura. “My mother and late father, Yoshi Katsumura, taught me early on about hospitality. I grew up in their restaurant, watching and learning what it means to build your life around the pleasure of serving others. At home, we prepared and ate traditional Japanese dishes that shortened the distance between us and my parents’ homeland. It had—and continues to have, tremendous influence on my desire to recreate that powerful effect in my own cooking.”

Chef Katsumura is thrilled to enter this exciting chapter of her career. She boasts an outstanding resume of savory and pastry experience in some of Chicago’s most esteemed, Michelin-rated kitchens including Blackbird, Grace, Acadia and Entente. Inspired by both her Japanese heritage and classic French training, her menu will be rooted in culture, passion and unsung flavor while showcasing ingredients in their purest form. 

Joining Katsumura in the kitchen is rising pastry star Jeanine Lamedieu, coming to Yūgen after working at the world renowned Le Bernadin (New York) and the Michelin-rated Smyth + The Loyalist (Chicago). As Pastry Chef, Lamedieu will collaborate closely with Katsumura to present a dessert menu that captures the restaurant’s contemporary Japanese vision.

Also integral to the team is a fresh face in hospitality: General Manager and fellow female powerhouse Morgan Olszewski. Olszewski contributes to Yūgen’s creative vision and leads the restaurant’s day-to-day business operations. The daughter of financial investor and Co-Owner Michael Olszewski, she carries an MBA from Loyola University of Chicago and brings versatile experience in micro-enterprise consulting, business statistics analysis and management. She was most recently involved in Best Buddies Illinois’ jobs consulting employment program and the Justice System Restart Initiative—both of which allowed her to combine business knowledge with a passion for making a positive difference in the community.

“I am thrilled to collaborate with this team,” says Morgan Olszewski. “One of the most compelling elements of my role is the unification of creativity and business strategy. Many restaurants excel in one, not both, areas. Not only am I humbled and honored to be working alongside such impressive colleagues, but I’m also very excited about our collective experience, which will result in a new fine dining journey that leaves a lasting impression on all and a business that is financially successful.”

Rounding out the culinary team is a seasoned front-of-house staff and a soon-to-be announced sommelier, whose expertise will serve to build a robust wine program and guide guests through an enhanced experience.

When visiting Yūgen, guests will have two distinctive options. In the 68-seat dining room, they will be welcomed by a fully reimagined space that sets the tone for the meal to follow. Earthy and minimal in aesthetic, they will be enveloped by an exquisite live wall and warm, natural tones as well as materials that create a harmonious balance between the space and Chef Katsumura’s cuisine. Guests may elect from two different and ever-evolving tasting menus, choosing an adventure that is either five or ten courses. A vegetarian option will be available, and the culinary team will accommodate any dietary needs. A private dining room seating twelve will provide an idyllic setting for intimate gatherings.

Those seeking a more casual visit will enjoy a second concept housed within the same address. The 20-seat, casual bar and dining lounge, whose name will soon be revealed, will be open through late night hours and emphasize craft spirits, cocktails and a selection of a la carte dishes reflective of the inspired nostalgia inherent in Chef Katsumura’s “home” cooking.

“Our team and spaces are coming together beautifully,” adds Katsumura. “Having two distinct spaces under one roof will allow diners to have more than one kind of experience based on what they’re looking for in their meal. It will also push our team artistically to think outside of the box, change often and provide them with the warm hospitality and culinary creativity for which Chicago restaurants are known worldwide. 

She continues, “This restaurant is, in many ways, a culmination of my familial upbringing as well as that of the kitchens in which I have been privileged to work. I look forward to honoring my family’s legacy by bringing our heirloom recipes to life while expressing my vision as a fine dining chef today.”

Industry News, NextGen Casual