Food: Michelin-Starred Mako’s Chef Will Unleash Casual Omakase Upon West Loop

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The celebrated chef behind two of Chicago’s most sought-out upscale sushi restaurants is going casual with the fall launch of a second West Loop spot. BK Park, the chef behind Juno in Lincoln Park and Michelin-starred Mako near Randolph Restaurant Row, is aiming for a mid-October opening for Tamu at 804 W. Washington Boulevard.

Tamu will be chef BK Park’s third Chicago restaurant. © Mako Tamu will be chef BK Park’s third Chicago restaurant.

Tamu, (a boy’s name in Japan can be translated to mean both “multiple” and “dream) will deviate from the tenacious 23-course omakase that earned Park and longtime collaborator Joon Kim critical recognition at Mako. Instead, Tamu seeks to tap into a growing demand for top-notch sushi in attractive spaces with a casual atmosphere. It’ll be divided into two sections: a 12-seat bar in front that exclusively offers temaki (hand rolls), and an eight-seat space for a mellower, nigiri-only version of omakase in the back, Park writes in an email.

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BK Park. © Brad Danner/Tamu BK Park.

“Customers are more experienced in omakase now, so I feel they are open to a new interpretation like Tamu’s omakase,” Park also writes. “Hand rolls, like we offer at Juno, are casual and fun to eat... As the West Loop has become a destination for luxury omakase, I want Tamu’s omakase to be one that is enjoyed more casually.”

Park, Kim, and their team have been working toward the opening for a year, and say they hope to cultivate a neighborhood feel that stands apart from Mako with both lunch and dinner menus. The West Loop bristles with office workers and those packed into cafes who search for afternoon options. Otherwise, they aren’t ready to share details of the restaurant’s design or menu.

Though Chicago’s Japanese restaurant scene is smaller than those in other major cities like Los Angeles and New York, local diners have learned a lot since Juno’s debut in 2013. In the years since the city saw an omakase boom that introduced many to the highly formalized (and often very expensive) style of Japanese cuisine. Now armed with more information, patrons have begun to seek a middle ground between grocery store sushi and Mako’s $185-per-person price tag at laid-back spots including Sushi Hall, which opened in early summer in Lincoln Park and Sushi Suite 202 from New York’s Sushi by Bou.

Stay tuned for news of the restaurant’s opening date.

Tamu, 804 W. Washington Boulevard, scheduled to open in October.

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