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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 2007Takashi 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 2008Shochu 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.
August 2008Bill 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.)
December 2008Mantou 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.
October 2009Bill Kim opens [node:150247 link=Belly Shack;], where he hawks an Asian/Latin blend of �street food� and sandwiches.
April 2010Izakaya take two: Steve Song opens Masu Izakaya in Lincoln Park. Reviews are rapturous, but it lasts only months.
September 2010Izakaya take three: [node:176453 link=Chizakaya;] (Chicago + izakaya) opens�and survives! Is the izakaya curse lifted?
(Answer: No. Lure Izakaya, a French/Japanese hybrid, opens in Chinatown in 2011 but only sticks around about a year.)
October 2010Riding 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 2010Rick Spiros returns with [node:178255 link=The Bento Box;], a BYOB spot filling bento boxes with all manner of creative, pan-Asian fare.
November 2011Takashi expands into River North with [node:15014721 link=Slurping Turtle;], a mod noodle shop.
December 2011Matthias Merges opens [node:15047003 link=Yusho;], a cocktails-and-yakitori spot that�s pretty damn sexy.
August 2012Bill Kim just can�t quit! [node:15618986 link=bellyQ;], which slings Asian-tinged barbecue, opens in the former one sixtyblue space.
Fall 2012Embeya, 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.
Here’s the path of how the trend finally got off the ground.
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