While Chicago has a plethora of Japanese dining establishments, there aren’t too many where you can sit and relax in a plush setting while sipping on the finest selections of sake. This is where Lakeview’s LURE Izakaya comes in. The popular Japanese style pub comes from the restaurant masterminds Macku Chan of Macku Sushi and Kee Chan of Strings Ramen. The Chan brothers have created a unique fusion of the relaxed Izakaya setting with the haute cuisine of the popular Japanese dining style kaiseki.
Traditionally if one were to delight themselves in a kaiseki style meal, this would be a rather costly and elaborate affair with 10-14 chef-selected courses. Think of the Japanese version of Alinea or Next as a reference. In order to make this lavish dining experience accessible for all diners, the Chan brothers created LURE Izakaya which has a relaxed dining feel but features inventive shareable world class dishes.
Recently my sister Brittany just came back from Japan so I thought she more than anyone would know if LURE Izakaya was truly bringing an authentic Japanese experience.
To start off our meal, of course, we couldn’t sit in a Japanese style pub and not order sake. We selected the Hakatsuru Superior, which was a dry form of sake. While it was dry, I didn’t notice the dryness as I’m usually not a fan of anything dry, so this was a pleasant surprise. My sister also shared with me sake drinking customs. When one guest finishes their cup, the other is to replenish their cup with sake. Also, traditionally Sake is drunken from the cedar case but we didn’t want any accidents as they are known to sometimes leak. After my first go-round with sake, I’m proud to declare that sake has gained a new fan.
To begin our very own kaiseki experience, we ordered from each section of the menu according to the different styles of food preparation involved. To begin, my sister selected the from Ko-No Mono (pickled) She selected the Oshinko Moriwase which are a colorful variation of mixed pickles. Traditionally mixed pickles are served at the beginning of Japanese meals so my sister stuck with this custom while at Lure. It was a tasty snack, so I can see why this a good prelude for a meal. It’s not filling as it’s not supposed to be, but it’s just a few nice bites before one is ready to dive in.
The haute cuisine journey officially began with Nimono (steamed) where we ordered steamed mussels. Served in a warm bowl, the mussels soaked in a delicious broth. The meat easily peeled out of the shell so it was steamed to perfection. As a lover of mussels, this was well prepared and definitely a dish I would order again. This is also a two in one type of deal, as the broth from the mussels could be combined with a bowl of rice. This creates yet another tasty dish. However, as a tip don’t wait too long for the broth to get cold, as it wouldn’t have the same effect.
Next up was Yakimono (grilled) and we selected the beef tongue. The meat came out in a pile of petite savory slices. It was very easy to chew, and I would describe the taste as akin to a finely prepared steak. In fact it was so delicious, I completely forgot that I was eating tongue as all I could focus on was the scrumptiousness of the meat. Meat lovers would certainly miss out on not ordering this dish.
As we take a break from some warm menu items, we ease into the Kobachi (cold) portion of the menu. For this section, we selected oysters and blue shrimp. These are my favorite creatures of the sea to indulge in so I couldn’t resist not ordering. The oysters were impeccably seasoned and quite well priced for the amount of seasoning and size of the oysters. I’m pretty sure I finished all of them in less than 1 minute. What can I say, I love oysters. The blue shrimp is exactly as it sounds; shrimp that is blue. Served raw, this dish is served in a spicy sauce. I’m not a fan of spice so I could do without the sauce, but my sister enjoyed this very much.
We move back into the warmer portions of the menu with Agemono (fried) and I select the Watari Kani crab. While the menu is very minimal with descriptions, I really wish they said this dish was spicy. While delicious, it was too spicy for me so I had to pass this one to my sister. She loves spicy food and so do most of my friends so I’m probably in the minority with this dish. For all of you spicy food lovers, now you know that you should check out the Watari Kani.
Next on the menu was the Suno Mono (vinaigrette) I selected the ceviche which was easily the highlight of the small plates for me. You can’t go wrong with ceviche in my opinion so this dish was pure and succulent perfection. It also has a nice tangy sensation to it, so that was a pleasant sensation to my palate. I loved it so much that I didn’t share. I’m pretty sure my sister only got one bite before I devoured it all by myself.
As we moved away from the smaller plates, we decided to check out some of the larger offerings off the menu. There were tons of special offerings that day, but we narrowed it down to the Yellow Tail for me, whereas my sister selected the Rainbow Trout. Both dishes were incredibly ornate in presentation, which made each dish equally intriguing. The Yellow Tail was served in a giant crystal bowl with the entire body of the fish soaking in a broth. Pieces of fish skin and meat fell tenderly off the bone as they soaked in the flavorful juice. While the dish was delicious, where Lure shines is in presentation and preparation. It was very easy to eat which I find very important with eating fish. However, the serving size was so huge you could get away with only ordering this one dish.
As for the Rainbow Trout, it was another large portion dish where the entire body of the fish was presented in the shape of a dragon. Accompanying this dish were two slabs of meat from the side of the fish. There are some other fish dishes that I’m curious about from LURE, but judging by our two selections I think LURE may be the king of fish dishes.
As our meal is drawing to a close, it is then time for you guessed it my favorite part of every meal; Mizumono (dessert). We selected the Wagashi which came in 5 assorted flavors. These sugary confections are typically served with tea. They appear to be wax-like but when one takes a bite it features a cake-like interior. There is no way to truly describe Wagashi as I’m sure there is no dish in existence that can be compared to it. It was petite in servings so I appreciated that it wasn’t too heavy. Since all the plates can add up and make you full, I recommend the Wagashi for a nice light sweet finish to your kaiseki experience.
So did LURE Izakaya pass my sisters test of an authentic Japanese Izakaya experience? She says yes and we both would certainly visit again. Now I have a new place where I can have both sake and a fine dining experience.
Special thanks to LURE Izakaya for the complimentary meal and the wonderful experience.