WICKER PARK — A stretch of North Avenue two blocks west of the busy Milwaukee, Damen and North avenues intersection in Wicker Park is about to welcome a restaurant that catches the vibe of the street, according to its chef.
Chef Henry Zhang, 33, said he wants anyone looking for a "calmer" dining experience, as well as families, to check out Runa Japanese Restaurant, 2257 W. North Ave.
"If I had children, I would not want to take them to the corner. It's quieter, calmer, you can actually bring kids and families here," Zhang said at a soft opening Thursday.
Runa, with dark black walls and an atmosphere that manages to be cozy as well as sleek, plans to reopen at 11:30 am. Saturday with a full menu. A Dim Sum brunch (available through 4:30 p.m) features traditional Chinese dumplings, steamed spare ribs, roasted pork buns and chicken feet, with each item priced at $3.
Zhang previously debated whether to put chicken feet on the menu and was concerned "it might freak people out."
Runa's extensive menu offers several appetizers, salad and sushi and sashimi, in addition to eight entrees such as grilled rib eye teriyaki, served over wasabi mashed potatoes ($18), chicken teriyaki ($15), broiled salmon ($22), garlic lobster ($25), and Udon, or noodle dishes ($14).
Sushi menu highlights include a super white tuna tataki appetizer containing tuna seasoned with sea salt, black pepper and seven Japanese spices, torched on the outside for a smoky flavor, along with rocked ebi, which is shrimp battered and tossed in a creamy and tangy orange sauce.
To wash everything down, Runa offers several varieties of cold and hot tea, as well as Japanese and American sodas and fruit juices.
Cucumber-infused water is served at every table, while diners can bring their own beer and wine, an encouragement reinforced on the front page of the menu, where "We love BYOB" is printed in bold lettering.
The restaurant seats 48 people including space along the sushi bar, made of glass and containing a clear look into the fish that's being served. There's an additional 21 seats on wicker and white couches in a back patio.
The Japanese word for "platinum moon," Runa brings about 12 new jobs to the neighborhood and new life to the southeast corner of Oakley and North avenues that has seen a lot of turnover, with the most recent tenant being The Lazy Parrot, a Caribbean restaurant.
"We are very excited. People keep walking in, telling us they are happy we are here and they want us to be successful. They are saying they wanted something different for this area," Zhang said.
Through Oct. 15, Runa is offering a 30 percent off Grand Opening discount, according to the restaurant's Facebook page. Delivery will be available in about two weeks, Zhang said.
Runa Japanese Restaurant, 2257 W. North Ave. Hours are 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and on Sundays. Friday and Saturday hours are 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Ph: 773-278-8887.