We recently got the opportunity to take a peek at Japonais, the much-anticipated Chicago import from partners Rick Wahlstedt, Miae Lim, and Jeffrey Beers. A great deal of detail went into the majestic space -- approximately 11,350 square feet (includes both inside and outside areas), which seats close to 300 patrons -- decked out with gold banquettes, red plush chairs, and multiple seating areas, including the bar and lounge, main dining room, an upstairs lounge, and a sushi bar. The centerpiece of the main dining room is a striking tree sculpture featuring custom blown glass pods created for the restaurant by Beers and his team from Urban Glass.


The menu is a modern twist on Japanese cuisine featuring signature sushi and cold appetizers by Sushi Chef Jun Ichikawa and hot appetizers and entrées by Chef Gene Kato. Fans of the Chicago Japonais will recognize their favorite dishes on the menu, including “The Rock,”($14) thinly sliced marinated New York Strip Steak cooked on a hot rock right on the table, Bin Cho ($13), delicately marinated baby tuna with arugula in a zesty citrus-sake vinaigrette (pictured) and “Le Quack Japonais” - Whole Maple Leaf Smoked Duck, Hoisin Sauce, Mango Chutney and Mushu Wraps (pictured - we really enjoyed this one). And don't forget the cocktails -- Japonais' Floating Orchid ($11), a blend of Stolichnaya vodka, Cointreau, fresh pear and lemon juices with an edible orchid garnish, was featured in the latest Bon Appetit.

Japonais, 111 East 18th Street, between Park Avenue South & Irving Place, 212-260-2020. Appetizers -- $4 - $24, Entrees -- $19 - $35, Desserts -- $8Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week: Lunch: Monday – Saturday, 11:30 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. Dinner: Monday – Thursday, 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., Friday & Saturday, 5:00 p.m. – 11:30 p.m. and Sunday, 4:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.