The doors opened at Yoshi’s Café in 1982, and the accolades are still rolling in. From Tokyo, to Paris, to Lyon, to Chicago, Yoshi Katsumura pioneered the art of international cuisine. His gastronomic artistry melded Asian and French textures and flavors to create a spectacular dining experience.
Yoshi passed away in August 2015, but his son, Ken carries on the legacy, in partnership with his mother, Nobuko Katsumura, Yoshi’s proprietor.
Yoshi’s 37-year run is an amazing feat for any fine dining establishment.
Yoshi and Nobuko were young entrepreneurs when they migrated from Japan to the United States and opened Yoshi’s Café. Ever since, it has been celebrated by peers and critics alike. “Yoshi’s colorful and tempting dishes are as eye-appealing as a Dutch still life,” wrote Gourmet magazine. This food spa in the trendy Lakeview community is a Chicago institution.
Yoshi was born in Ibaraki, Japan and was only 20 when he apprenticed in Tokyo with Iron Chef Hiroyuki Sakai. After several years of training in the intricacies of fine French cooking, Yoshi moved to Chicago in 1973. He worked his way up the culinary ladder at top-rated restaurants -- Le Bastille, La Reserve, as well as Le Français, where he was tutored by the famed chef Jean Banchet.
Yoshi later spent months honing his culinary skills in Paris and Lyon, France. He returned to Chicago as a chef and partner at Jimmy’s Place, a premiere French fusion restaurant. A profile by the “Great Chefs” TV series noted that “after changing cultures himself, Yoshi is a keen observer of how American culture is changing.”
The restaurant’s innovative menus epitomize the word “eclectic.” Diners flock to North Halsted Street for the perennial favorite, Tuna Tartare, accompanied by creamy guacamole and a sake-fused oyster shooter.
And they clamor for Ken Katsumura’s newest creations, including pan-seared Gindara (Japanese black cod) with Carolina gold congee, Maitake and smoked orange in dashi. And don’t miss Ken’s Zuke salmon with corn bacon crème fraiche and seaweed salad.
Ken’s sister Mari also followed in her parents’ footsteps. She is the founding executive chef at Yugen, the Michelin-starred, contemporary Japanese restaurant in Chicago’s West Loop.
The Katsumura family has served communities in many other ways, near and far. In 2011 Yoshi’s Café hosted a Relief for the People of Japan Fundraising Dinner, raising $10,000 to support the victims of the historic earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan. In 2012 the restaurant sponsored a fundraising dinner to support New Yorkers struggling with the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy.
In April 2014 the corner of West Aldine at Halsted streets was renamed “Yoshi Katsumura Way.” 44th Ward Ald. Tom Tunney sponsored the special designation.
“Yoshi, our award-winning chef, and pioneer entrepreneur on Halsted Street, has redefined neighborhood fine dining citywide,” Tunney said. “We want to recognize Yoshi for his talents in the kitchen and commitment to Lakeview.”