Chef Gene Kato is bringing his robata to a new venue, Itoko, which will cap off the final trio of restaurants at a historic Lakeview location at the former Southport Lanes. Kato, who has served as executive chef of Boka, a sprawling restaurant group, is said to be part of a new 2,000-square-foot, two-floor restaurant.
The much-anticipated Japanese restaurant will be housed in an 118-year-old building at 3325 N. Southport Avenue. Though the new restaurant, Itoko, will be much smaller than Momotaro’s 11,000-square-foot space, where Kato also served as an executive chef, it’s an opportunity to bring his classic grill and lauded hand rolls to a new audience of diners. Itoko, which will feature a 650-square foot private upstairs dining room, is said to cover about 2,750 square feet on the first floor.
Boka group founders Kevin Boehm and Rob Katz have worked with Chef Kato on numerous ventures– many of which have found acclaim thanks to Kato’s menu. Now, as the Boka Restaurant Group finishes up the details on the third and final prong of the Southport Corridor project, plans have gone into place to bring Itoko to life. Boka has enlisted Brand Bureau, to design and curate the space– who also designed Momotaro. Itoko will apparently be a sharp blend of Japanese and Scandinavian influences.
While details on the menu are still underwraps but the group promises to bring about surprises, offering up hand rolls, and eventually omakase, along with a potential sake program. Itoko, which will be led by Kato, plans to open this winter and join a trio of popular spots like Lee Wolen’s GG’s Chicken Shop, and soon-to-open Stephanie Izard’s Little Goat Diner at the former bowling space, Southport Lanes.
The chef, who previously worked at Sumi, a now closed River North spot, is bringing his vision to the new menu. Itoko, which means ‘cousin’ in Japanese, will be part of the group that created the ever-popular Momotaro, but will have its own identity with signature dishes, drinks and design– though there could be a few signature items that overlap.
Address: 3325 N. Southport Ave. Chicago, IL 60657
[Featured photo via: Brand Bureau]