Alex Garcia/Chicago Tribune
Those of us who never tried Matthias Merges' cooking when he ran Charlie Trotter's kitchen (read: couldn't afford it) can now do so at his Japanese small bites shop, Yusho, in Logan Square. But this ain't Merges-lite. Adjust your expectations beyond meat on a stick dusted with togarashi. Merges takes takoyaki, the octopus fritters sold on street carts in Osaka, and subs in duck confit or salmon roe. Grilled tofu comes imaginatively paired with pineapples and chrysanthemum. There's a skin trio of chicken, pork and salmon, a crunchy starter where audio serves as its best marketing tool. Don't think that a high-end chef downscaling the price point equates to a loss of ambition. Close your eyes, pretend there are white linens on the table and judge solely by how flavors meld on the palate. Every dish of Merges' could be served at the poshest four-star restaurant.
Yusho, 2853 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago; 773-904-8558
— Kevin Pang