This brilliant new cocktail bar combines drinks from creative director Julia Momose (GreenRiver, Aviary, Oriole) and food from chef de cuisine Mariya Russell (Oriole). Also involved, of course, are Noah and Cara Sandoval from Oriole, which is almost around the corner.
Oriole earned its Michelin stars in a flash, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some impressive awards coming to Kumiko soon, too.
As at Oriole, your first challenge is to find the place! The unmarked door is at the corner. Your experience begins with a warm greeting and a welcoming beverage (herbal tea the night I was there) at the host stand. Then you are ushered into the intimate dining room with its limited table seating and eight spots at the bar.
The atmosphere is welcoming, refined, and calming, with Japanese influenced simplicity that immediately puts you at ease.
The focus is definitely on cocktails and spirits, with an emphasis on sochu and Japanese whisky. There are also some very interesting rums, and a whole world of aperitifs and exotica.
Patrick, my bartender, was a charming host, and it was a delight watching his meticulous preparation of each drink. The main cocktail list offers a wide range of styles, so I had no trouble finding the bitter and complex flavors I favor. Patrick also helped me choose selections to match the food I ordered.
Speaking of food, the offerings are currently limited to three types of small bites (oysters, prawns, and steam buns), an eggplant dip, and two entrees (loup de mer and short rib).
I started with two of the tempura prawns, which seemed pricey at $8 each, but when they were served I realized we were in Michelin territory. They looked like something you’d find at Oriole, perfectly coated in a delicate tempura and artfully graced with yuzu, mint and edible flowers. Fabulous.
I also had the eggplant dip, which was nothing like I was expecting, but was also excellent. It was served in warm miso, and the primary flavor was of the fresh herbs–especially mint–topping it. The accompanying rice crackers were also wonderful.
My entree was the loup de mer, a delicate fish served with its crispy skin in place, and already sliced into manageable bites perfect for combining with the accompanying ponzu and bok choi. A crunchy mix of furikake (a mixture of dried fish, sesame seeds, and salt) added a great texture.
For dessert I had Japanese milk bread, which is essentially a caramelized French toast served with truffle flakes and ice cream. It was delicious.
The night I was there the omakase tasting was not available, so I wasn’t able to try that, but I’m just as glad I had a chance to explore on my own.
Because there are so many interesting spirits on offer, it’s an ideal place for people who like their drinks neat. I particularly suggest you try the El Dorado 15 year rum aged in dry Madeira casks; it’s a very complex treat.
The combination of great ambiance, perfect service, divine food, and meticulous mixology make Kumiko a winner, for sure.
630 W Lake St