Kitchen talent that runs in the family
You could say that Mari Katsumura took on an impossible challenge, said Phil Vettel in the Chicago Tribune. Less than a year after three-Michelin-starred Grace was shuttered because the chef walked out on his money partner, Katsumura accepted the same entrepreneur’s offer to start a new tasting-menu restaurant in the same space. She has had a few things going for her—notably that she’s the daughter of the late Yoshi Katsumura, the beloved founder of Chicago’s Yoshi’s Café. Also, she has talent: Her first two $205 menus have been impressive, starting with her dazzling canapés: balls of mushroom gelée topped with braised octopus and “a seriously upscale beef jerky” among them. A couple of courses later comes her crab rice—a soy-cured egg yolk surrounded by nuggets of king crab, puffed rice, and salmon roe. “It’s the kind of dish that can define a restaurant,” and yet the meal is only beginning its turn toward true luxury. Though Yugen hasn’t yet reached the level of the city’s other $900-a-couple dinner options, it could get there. “This restaurant just might last a while.” 652 Randolph St., (312) 265-1008
Wayan New York City
“Like father, like son, I suppose,” said Ryan Sutton in Eater.com. Stepping for the first time outside the global food empire of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, his celebrity-chef dad, Cédric Vongerichten has created “a stunner of an Indonesian restaurant.” Aided in Wayan’s menu development by his wife, Ochi, who was born in Jakarta, the Bangkok-born younger Vongerichten displays an apparently inherited talent for fusing Asian cuisines with European technique. His “breathtaking” sop buntut—a Javanese oxtail soup—thus gets a firm Maillard char on the braised meat, which comes garnished with lemongrass and cilantro. Occasionally, Cédric plays too safe, giving unadventurous diners a generic crab cake when they could be sampling Southeast Asia’s brilliant crab dishes; he even serves an obligatory steak—“$60 of overcooked wagyu that mimics the texture of a well-worn shoe.” Order instead the lamian noodles in a molasses-like but peppery soy sauce tossed with lobster, or the fried rice (nasi goreng) with sautéed whole prawns that have been slathered in a sweet Twizzler-red sambal sauce. At its best, “Wayan shows off compelling strains of modernity rooted in tradition.” 20 Spring St., (917) 261-4388
Estuary Washington, D.C.
Brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio have opened a new venture, and “it’s good to have the boys back,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. Best known for competing against each other during a past season of Top Chef, the Maryland natives have put recent closures behind them to open one of the best new restaurants in town, a third-floor refuge at the Conrad hotel. “A mash note to the Chesapeake Bay,” Estuary also reveals the siblings’ playful side: The “ramen” on the menu is fashioned from cuttlefish and served in a buttery gingery broth; the excellent crab sandwich is garnished with crab-shaped spiced plantain chips. It’s not all seafood here. The most fascinating vegetarian dish might also be the heartiest entrée: a veal shank look-alike that’s actually celery root that’s been steamed, dehydrated, roasted, and glazed, then served with kale-colored rigatoni in a two-day sauce made with tomatoes, cannellini beans, and mushrooms. 950 New York Ave., (202) 844-5895 ■