LAKEVIEW — It's opening time at Lure Izakaya, and Kee Chan is putting the finishing touches on his fresh fish, gift-wrapped like presents.
He ties a bow on each as it is set face down on ice. It's the best way to store the fish, to keep the flavor untainted, he explains. It's also a fitting way to honor the animal that lost its life.
Lure Izakaya Pub — originally a Chinatown gastropub that debuted to critical acclaim but closed in 2012 — relaunched at 2925 N. Halsted St. in late July. He said the new location, south of Wellington Avenue, is more "working class" and has less foot traffic than he was accustomed to in previous locations in Lincoln Park and Chinatown.
The shared small plates design is classic Japanese izakaya, a type of informal bar for after-work drinks. The spot will also feature kaiseki, haute cuisine with up to 14 courses offered as a prix fixe tasting menu.
Kee Chan, chef-owner of Lure Izakaya Pub in Lakeview, adjusts fresh fish ahead of dinner service on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015. [DNAinfo/Ariel Cheung]
Each kaiseki course showcases individual cooking styles, from nimono (steamed) to ko-no mono (pickled). Options include yakimono grilled beef tongue ($6), kobachi cold Wagyu carpaccio ($12) and mizumono mochi ice cream for dessert ($3).
Chan also rotates a selection of fresh fish like black cod cheek, and he adjusts his recommendations based on a customer's experience with Japanese cuisine.
"If you know this menu and are familiar with all of this, I would pick something a little more exotic to try out, to impress you," Chan said.
A sampling of dishes at Lure Izakaya. Clockwise from top left: Soba Shiru Mono ($7), scallops ($3 each), Tako octopus with Japanese cucumber ($7) and Wagyu carpaccio drizzled with truffle oil ($12). [Dan De los Monteros]
The new Lure is another opportunity for Chan and his brother Macku Chan to bring a wider variety of Japanese cuisine to Chicago, stretching the menu far beyond familiar staples like sushi and ramen. Their previous ventures include the controversial Heat, Mulan, Strings Ramen Shop and the design firm KeyConcept.
Chan, who studied interior design in college, said he finds both cooking and design as art with a purpose.
"They're sort of related, something that satisfies the people. When you see people eat and they're happy with what you're serving, that feels very good. Same thing when people are sitting in an environment and they're comfortable," he said. "It goes hand in hand."
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