September 2019 | chicago foodie girl


Chicago Eats: Katana

Happy Monday and happy fall! Although we're mostly in summer daytime weather mode around here, I'm still super excited to see the return of my favorite season. Not only am I ready to shift into all things fall (apples! pumpkin everything! bonfires! foliage!), this is also the time for me to hit up all of my favorite restaurant patios before we move into snow season. I know most people think of peak patio time as June-August but for me, I'm all about the late summer/early fall evenings when the sun has lost its intensity and the bugs have finally beat a swift retreat.

I kicked off my fall patio tour de force with a visit to the lavish West Coast import, Katana in River North. Open since summer 2017, Katana took over the massive 13,000-square-foot former Bin 36 space and transformed it into a sleek and modern spot complete with a dramatic design and sexy vibe, three specialty kitchens (sushi bar, hot kitchen, and robatayaki grill), and a long list of sake and Japanese whisky offerings. Known for their upscale sushi selection and meats cooked over special charcoal imported from Japan, the third location of Katana also includes a focus on prime steaks, as a nod to its first foray into the Midwest.

Having been to Katana several times over the past year (but this was my first patio dinner date!) I already knew their signature Tropical Infusion cocktail was on my must-order list. Not only is this drink a refreshing mix of vodka, watermelon, and fresh pineapple, it's also beautifully presented (I'm always a sucker for a pretty cocktail!). It's obviously an excellent patio cocktail and it's also perfect for whenever you want something light and fruity, but not overwhelmingly sweet.

Kampachi Crudo in miso vinaigrette topped with cherry tomatoes, lava salt, almond chili garlic oil, and trout roe. Based on previous visits, I also knew this dish was another must for me. Kampachi (also known as amberjack) is buttery and rich yellowtail that pairs naturally well with bold citrus and smokey flavor. Katana's beautifully balanced version initially won me over with only one bite! Along with the creamy citrus flavors, the dish also has a nice smokey component, thanks to the trout roe that is smoked over the hickory coals. Note: the cold dishes do rotate frequently based on availability - I highly recommend trying either the crudo, the hamachi, or the toro.

Hanabi: spicy tuna on crispy rice. This is the final item that I absolutely had to revisit (and introduce it to my friend, as I raved about it so much!). I've had numerous versions of this crispy rice tuna at various restaurants, but none beat Katana's. These addictive chewy little pillows of crispy rice and soft spicy tuna are so melt-in-your-mouth delicious that you absolutely will not want to share.

Ingen Itame: sautéed Chinese green beans in a spicy garlic sauce. At this point, we decided to turn our dinner selections over to the kitchen. If you stop by Katana for dinner, you have the option of letting them create a tailored experienced based on your preferences. After chatting with us about our likes and dislikes, our server put together a three-course meal (hot dishes, sushi, and dessert) that ended up being one of the best omakase experiences either of us have ever had!

Nasu Dengaku: Japanese eggplant, baby bok choy, and miso. Quite honestly, eggplant is never something I would order, as I tend not to like the flavor nor the texture, but this was incredible. The eggplant was firm (eliminating any texture issues) and covered in a slightly sweet miso glaze - my friend described it as eggplant candy.

Wagyu Dumplings: A5 wagyu with miso dressing, crunchy chili garlic, shaved Brussels sprouts, and furikake. A major benefit of letting the kitchen choose your meal is the possibility for some off-menu items like these incredible dumplings. The flavors were so spectacular and the meat so tender - at one point, my friend literally moaned while working her way through a dumpling! While this dish is not a regular menu item, I do highly recommend asking for something special made with their wagyu as part of your experience.

Robata Skewers: Gyu (rib eye), Wagyu Kosho (wagyu & black pepper sauce), Suzuki (Chilean seabass), Ebi Bekon (jumbo shrimp wrapped in bacon with chili garlic sauce), and Tsukune (chicken meatball) served with classic ponzu, ginger sauce, and Karachi mustard. Part of what makes Katana so special is their robata grill - the skewers are all cooked over an open flame using Binchō-tan (Japanese white charcoal). The result is meat that is lightly crisped, extremely tender, and ridiculously flavorful. In fact, they're so flavorful that you'll probably skip right over all of the dipping sauces!

Sushi Course: Spicy Tako Roll, Botan Ebi, Sea Bream, Salmon, and Isaki (grunt fish). For our sushi course, the kitchen sent out a selection of their most popular offerings, along with a few specials, designed to move from lighter to more intense flavors. We especially enjoyed the grunt fish, a very delicate and sweet white fish with a higher fat content (making it perfect for nigiri).

Carnival Cake: crunchy, chocolate brownie topped with layers of raspberry gelée and creamy peanut butter semifreddo topped with toasted meringue, house-made toffee, and pretzels, and encased in cotton candy that is dosed in vodka set alight tableside. Yes, this dessert is over the top layers of sweetness that every Instagrammer loves to order (see it in action here) - it's exactly as crazy as it sounds and that's why everyone wants it. Really, who doesn't love a little fire show with their dessert?!

Given the size of their menu and wide array of sushi, vegetable, and meat options, everyone in your party will find something they love at Katana. You can try all of this deliciousness and more at Katana: 339 N Dearborn St, Chicago, IL.

ETA: This restaurant has closed.
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