Ajasteak is phase two of River North’s mod-yuppie pamper retreat, the Dana Hotel & Spa,
marrying the slick side of sushi culture with A-list steak companions, i.e. $72 Kobe cuts aside bok choy and Japanese yams. (Phase three, Vertigo
, a rooftop be-scenery with a fireplace and small-plate menu, opened late in 2008.)
Shimmering in dual-level, floor to ceiling windows and an easy-on-the-eye waitstaff, it certainly nails an elegantly hip class. And whereas other restaurants of its kind have trouble backing up such an image with an all-star culinary team to support it, ajasteak is proudly a double threat. Those in charge of the menu have seen work under French mastermind Jean-Georges Vongerichten and list other Asian hybrids Buddakan and Morimoto on their resume.
Which is why the aforementioned Kobe beef selections pair themselves with prime nigiri cuts and maki rolls are assembled with things like mango, avocado, mint and scallion chimichuri. While appetizers merge cultures a little more seamlessly, as with the "deviled egg," stuffed with yellowfin tuna, scallions and chives; it's all balanced with a fleet of sake options.
To accommodate early risers from the hotel and spa, ajasteak dabbles in an oddly traditional breakfast menu, complete with pancakes and cereals. But come lunch and dinner slots, expect things to get much more creative (including a menu of burgers - $14 for prime beef, $20 for Australian Kobe - with options like the 135 SW, with avocado, pico de gallo, torn cilantro, queso Chihuahua and chipotle mayo).
Average cost: $31+
Centerstage Reviewer: Gavin Paul