Gene Kato to open Charcoal Bar below Sumi

Charcoal Bar

Charcoal Bar

When former Japonais chef Gene Kato announced his plans for Sumi Robata Bar back in the spring, he hinted that Sumi wouldn't be the only concept in the two-story building. Kato is still keeping mum about what will go above Sumi, but he did tell TOC about the concept that's going below. It's called Charcoal Bar, and it's a cocktail lounge. A Japanese cocktail lounge.

"The goal is really to introduce Japanese-style bartending," Kato says. He's inspired by places like the Aviary and Violet Hour—places for "people who want to go to a really chic place and have great crafted drinks." But, he notes, "the Japanese-style bar is very, very much focused on preparing the basics...we're not going to try to create crazy drinks or do a Las Vegas-style show. We're making the classic drinks and trying to bring a higher standard."  

The size of Charcoal Bar will certainly help with quality control. Nestled at the end of a long hallway in a corner of the building's lower level (the hallway is shown in the rendering above; Charcoal Bar is the room at the hallway's end), the bar will have just 12 seats, with room for 4-6 more people to stand. Serving those customers will be one bartender and one bartender only; night to night, that bartender will not change. To give an idea of how the Japanese style of bartending is different, Kato told me that the (as yet unhired) bartender will incorporate Japanese mixology customs such as presenting the bottles of spirits used to make the cocktails, and carving immaculate spheres of ice for the drinks. (Kato recommended I reference YouTube to see what he's talking about, and I did: check out the ice in this vid.)

As for food, the small plates from Sumi will be available at Charcoal Bar. Does that mean Sumi's food will also be available at the mystery concept going above it? On that, Kato is still momentarily staying quiet.

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)