Hours: Dinner: Monday-Saturday
Open late: Friday & Saturday till 11
"Japanese brasserie" and raw bar from Shin Thompson, formerly of Bonsoiree.
The second coming of Shin Thompson—who gave up the reins on his celebrated Logan Square prix fixe, Bonsoiree, to open this Japanese "brasserie"—is a more accessible restaurant, one for diners used to the extracasual shared-plates environment. Kabocha boasts a raw bar, the most impressive product of which is the $85 "seafood aquarium," Thompson's answer to the seafood tower. Arranged in a glass case set with pebbles and edible seaweed and crammed with crustaceans like a teeming tidal pool, it's a splendid display, full of cold steamed lobster, cracked king crab legs, and oysters. Other items on the menu live up to the dramatic promise set by this centerpiece, like the one-bite scallop motoyaki appetizer, a carryover from Bonsoiree: crabmeat and sliced scallop on the half shell, smothered in creamy, ponzu-spiked aioli and put to the torch. But rabbit dumplings and a pair of pork crepinettes were dry as a bone, while a duo of lamb sausage and kombu-cured lamb loin was the most perplexing dish I've encountered in recent memory, the assemblage piled messily all to one side of the plate as if to distract from the tough loin and sausage the texture of sawdust. Among a trio of desserts, a savory-sweet vanilla–sesame ice cream was overwhelmed by a puddle of sour fruit sauce and a tasteless chocolate tuile, and an $8 pair of cubed, green-tea-dusted chocolate "truffles" came amid a train wreck of meringue and strawberries. I fear that with this new endeavor Thompson has fallen victim to the same fate that befalls most shared-plates enterprises. Attempting to appeal to as broad a swath of desires as possible is frequently the death of inspiration. Read the full review >>
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This large West Loop corner space by the Morgan/Lake Green Line is surprisingly claustrophobic, with windows closed to the street and the dining room. Wines are reasonably priced compared to a list of sweet, mild cocktails that will probably appeal to drinkers who don't enjoy drinking. There are also a few beers, a few sakes, and a token few Japanese whiskeys. —Mike Sula