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Modern Asian restaurants in Chicago: A timeline

Here’s the path of how the trend finally got off the ground.


It�s been a hard road for Chicago�s Asian-food enthusiasts. While New York exploded with Momofukus and L.A. with Kogi food trucks, Chicago lagged behind with the traditional and familiar. And every time a modern Asian concept did open, it often closed just as quickly. Now, three new restaurants�OON (coming soon), Embeya (ditto) and bellyQ (just opened)�suggest a breakthrough. Here�s a selective history of how we (finally) got here.


December 2007
Takashi Yagihashi opens Takashi in Bucktown, filling a void in the city for upscale Asian fare that isn�t married to tradition (see Arun�s).


May 2008
Shochu opens in Lakeview, giving Chicago a taste of a nationwide izakaya trend. Less than a year later, it morphs into an American grill.

Meanwhile, L2O, Laurent Gras�s spare-no-expense-seafood-spot-with-Japanese-influences, opens in Lincoln Park.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
Photograph: Erica Gannett

August 2008
Bill Kim leaves Le Lan, the upscale Vietnamese spot he was running, to open [node:149977 link=Urbanbelly;], a slick, BYOB noodle shop in Avondale. (Le Lan closes less than a year later.)

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

December 2008
Mantou Noodle Bar, helmed by chef Rick Spiros, opens in Wicker Park. For a minute it looks as if there�s going to be a sexy noodle-shop trend. But a month later, Mantou abruptly closes.

 (Photograph: Anna Knott)
Photograph: Anna Knott

October 2009
Bill Kim opens [node:150247 link=Belly Shack;], where he hawks an Asian/Latin blend of �street food� and sandwiches.

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

April 2010
Izakaya take two: Steve Song opens Masu Izakaya in Lincoln Park. Reviews are rapturous, but it lasts only months.

September 2010
Izakaya take three: [node:176453 link=Chizakaya;] (Chicago + izakaya) opens�and survives! Is the izakaya curse lifted?

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

(Answer: No. Lure Izakaya, a French/Japanese hybrid, opens in Chinatown in 2011 but only sticks around about a year.)

 (Photograph: Michael Jarecki)
Photograph: Michael Jarecki

October 2010
Riding on the success of its banh mi stand in the French Market, [node:176465 link=Saigon Sisters;] opens a small, stylish restaurant serving contemporary Vietnamese food. Its chef, Matt Eversman, leaves seven months later.


December 2010
Rick Spiros returns with [node:178255 link=The Bento Box;], a BYOB spot filling bento boxes with all manner of creative, pan-Asian fare.

 (Photograph: Martha Williams)
Photograph: Martha Williams

November 2011
Takashi expands into River North with [node:15014721 link=Slurping Turtle;], a mod noodle shop.

 (Photograph: Erica Gannett)
Photograph: Erica Gannett

December 2011
Matthias Merges opens [node:15047003 link=Yusho;], a cocktails-and-yakitori spot that�s pretty damn sexy.


August 2012
Bill Kim just can�t quit! [node:15618986 link=bellyQ;], which slings Asian-tinged barbecue, opens in the former one sixtyblue space.

 (Photograph: Brendan Lekan)
Photograph: Brendan Lekan

Fall 2012
Embeya, an Asian/French concept from a couple of RIA alums, is slated to open in the West Loop. And rIght down the street, Eversman is set to open OON.