photo: courtesy of Shochu
Instead of curiosity killing the cat, it inspired Lakeview's most innovative concept: Shochu, a stylish lounge named after a Japanese distilled spirit. Owned by John Handler and Lynne Wallack (the husband-and-wife duo behind Deleece), the restaurant was inspired by partner/chef, Josh Hansen, who learned of shochu after scanning the ingredients on a bottle of white soy sauce. His inquisitiveness, paired with the couple's research, led to an agreement that "Chicago needed to learn about shochu," Wallack says.
In recent years, the spirit became a hit in cities like New York, Los Angeles and London. The low calorie count (15 to 20 calories per ounce compared to 60 in most vodkas) combined with its versatility and comparably low alcohol content contributed to the trend. If you're interested in tasting the spirit without distraction from overpowering ingredients, have Jane, the bartender, prepare the Black Dragon: barley shochu and simple syrup muddled with blackberries. If you'd rather sample a moderate shochu flavor, she'll recommend the Izumi, named after Shigechiyo Izumi, who died at the age of 120 and claimed that without shochu, there would be no pleasure in life. A portrait of him hangs proudly on robin's egg-blue walls.
Exclusive drink recipes are what get noticed here; the crowd is content to just go along for the ride. Don't get us wrong; you'll find an attractive group of area residents, but you won't witness any fashion shows or other club-like functions taking place. Instead, the lounge summons socialites unconcerned with top-40 jams or baseball on a big screen; groove to downtempo beats and notice exposed brick absent of plasmas. This creates a communal experience comprised of friends gabbing while taste-testing an assortment of pan-Asian, American-infused plates. The marinated grilled skirt steak wrapped in butter lettuce with kimchee, pickled daikon and miso garlic puree is a favorite of both guests and staff. Equally appetizing is the skewered shrimp and Asian pear with blueberry teriyaki sauce. Dishes range from $2-$13 and shochu cocktails are $9. Valet parking is available.
Centerstage Reviewer: David-Anthony Gonzalez