Masaki Transports You To Japan - Chicago

A flavor trip to Japan, by way of Masaki

Rarely does a restaurant manage to mentally transport us.

Masaki, a miniscule new Japanese restaurant in Streeterville, achieves this feat.

There's an unlikely name behind it: Mauro Mafrici, the chef and owner of Pelago, an Italian restaurant around the corner. His passion for Japanese cuisine is evident in Masaki's eclectic, ambitious menu and its sleek, refined space.

This is Japanese fine dining of an uncommon sort. The entry-level, three-course omakase ($98) comprises nearly a dozen dishes, each course an artful composition of three or four plates. The first set may hold beer-battered softshell crabs with a crisp sawagani (river crab) garnish, delicately crunchy jellyfish salad, or a refined okonomiyaki, a savory Japanese pancake showered with bonito shavings.

Next: nigiri, thick-cut sashimi and other raw presentations, like maguro and scallions grated over namaimo (Japanese yam), or salmon belly in sweet su-miso dressing. The final course draws from the grill, the steamer or the rice cooker, with ayu (a Japanese river fish), short rib or stingray as the stars.

Masaki offers five- and seven-course tasting menus, too ($134 and $178, respectively), and a substantial sake list. We requested three pairings, which accompanied us excellently on the night's journey.

Masaki, 990 Mies Van Der Rohe Way; 312-280-9100 or