New and noteworthy: Veteran chef returns

March 10, 2008 8:39:46 AM PDT
High-profile restaurant openings used to occur every few months in Chicago. These days, it's nearly every week. Takashi Yagihashi is no stranger to Chicago. He ran the kitchen at Ambria for many years.. Then over the course of the last decade, he created stunning menus at Tribute in suburban Detroit, then Okada at the Wynn Las Vegas.

He returned a little over a year ago to set up a noodle kiosk on Macy's seventh floor..

But his dream has finally come true. He has his own little place in a Bucktown A-frame with his own name on the front door.

Homecomings tend to be sweet, but in the case of chef Takashi Yagihashi, it's also savory. After spending more than a decade away, he's back with a very personal statement in a tiny Bucktown brownstone - his namesake restaurant.

"So when I decided to come back to Chicago, I would like to do something like more cozy, intimate, small space and I can shake hand of all customers, if I can," said Takashi Yagihashi, Takashi.

It's easy to do in the cozy, yet refined space. Yagihashi is most at home with Japanese ingredients. An elegant starter of seared big eye tuna with avocado and hearts of palm is lightly dressed in a sweet onion vinaigrette.

"I do sometimes use the bluefin, that's the best one, but most of the time I use the big eye tuna, that's a darker color and but so, uh, great flavors," said Yagihashi.

Sauteed Maine scallops are heated with tiny gnocchi and trumpet royale mushrooms; a celery root-parmesan foam adds the slightest hint of earthiness. Seared rock fish is sauteed until golden while an accompanying fricasse of Japanese mushrooms and daikon radish are sauteed - eventually forming the base for the tender fish.

Yagihashi's chicken is definitely out-of-the-ordinary: first sauteed, then placed into a blazing hot clay pot, along with shimeji mushrooms, sliced Japanese eggplant and okra.

"I find the great Amish chickens, so I decided that I wanted to do something bring to the table like sizzling, so hot, steam is coming from the clay pot, that's what I wanted to do then, it's perfect for the chicken," said Yagihashi.

Save room for dessert. A rich chocolate pave contains hazelnuts, chocolate mousse and ganache, all separated by thin layers of feuilletine wafers.. while a warm pear financier arrives with accompaniments of kumquat marmalade, maytag blue cheese and toasted walnuts.. all capped off by a rich scoop of honey-vanilla ice cream. They may appear French, but Yagihashi says that's about to change.

"We just open, you know, a couple of month ago, so we started a little bit classic, French dessert, but we got a adding more flavor Japanese style dessert and you gonna be surprised when you come to see us," said Yagihashi.

Takashi is open for dinner only, Tuesday through Sunday.

1952 N. Damen Ave.