Kabocha Opens In The West Loop - Chicago

New dishes, and an old favorite, at Kabocha

Three cheers for the return of Shin Thompson's scallop-and-crab motoyaki.

We haven't dug into the irresistible dish ($10), featuring shellfish swaddled in citrusy ponzu aioli and torched until caramelized, since a 2010 meal at Bonsoirée, Thompson's now-defunct Bucktown restaurant.

Our reunion with it at Kabocha, Thompson's new West Loop home, ended with finger licking.

The rest of Kabocha's menu is original, and much of it is exciting. Blistered shishito peppers with roasted cauliflower and heady curried artichoke sauce ($7) is an inventive and excellent use of a pepper most often served with little more than a sprinkle of sea salt. Smoked bacon, sweetly pickled shallots and just-cut microgreens–grown under lights in the restaurant's open kitchen–adorn an artistic mosaic of tuna and hamachi crudo ($13).

Seared silken tofu ($18) is supremely flavorful, dusted with a Japanese spice blend and served with beluga lentils redolent of makrut (kaffir) lime leaves.

Not every dish succeeds. Dumplings were uncharacteristically clunky, with chewy wrappers, a cloying sauce, and a dense filling of ground rabbit and Thai basil.

But one gaffe won't prevent us from returning for more of Thompson's intriguing dishes, or heeding the siren song of that motoyaki.