Chicago’s First All-Beef Omakase Arrives From a Michelin-Starred Team

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Chicago’s pricy and increasingly competitive omakase scene gained a notable new contender last week as the ambitious couple behind Michelin-starred sushi restaurant Omakase Yume unveiled a sleek new dining den that’s the first all-beef omakase restaurant in town.

Bonyeon, an intimate 12-seat spot where chef Sangtae Park deploys his signature restraint through seven rotating courses, each featuring a cut of beef in a nose-to-tail Korean style, debuted on Thursday, December 7 at 651 W. Washington Boulevard. Bonyeon has been in the works for a year and a half, but its distinctive approach is the realization of a dream the Parks have nurtured even before launching their first Chicago restaurant in 2018.

Chef Sangtae Park slices into a piece of beef on a wood cutting board.
Chef Sangtae Park.

“When we opened Omakase Yume, [Sangtae] was already thinking about this,” says Kate Park, who immigrated with her husband to Chicago from South Korea. Raw fish isn’t for everyone, the couple observed, but in Chicago — a city replete with steakhouses — beef has wide appeal. After more than five years of musing over the notion and designing menus in their (limited) spare time, a serendipitous vacancy alongside sister businesses Omakase Yume and casual izakaya Tengoku Aburiya provided the opportunity they were waiting for.

Beef has a rich and nuanced history in Korean cuisine, and Bonyeon will highlight that lineage through the vehicle of omakase — a highly ritualized genre of Japanese dining that is by now familiar to Chicagoans. The style’s popularity serves as an on-ramp for diners to encounter cuts of beef that don’t appear on the menu at Gibsons or Steak 48.

“The cuts are very different and not easy to find in the market,” Kate Park says, pointing to lesser-known options like rib finger and omasum. Just as every piece of fish served at Omakase Yume has its own character, every cut of beef has a different texture and flavor. In place of banchan, Sangtae Park and his team seek to complement the distinctive qualities of each course with sides that bring out their best — a fatty cut, for example, is accompanied by a little bit of sour pickle with salt and wasabi.

“Chef’s style is very simple, [which is] why our restaurant name is ‘Bonyeon,’” Kate Park says. “In Korean, the meaning is ‘root’ or ‘original.’ He wants to keep the original flavor, the garnish never covers it up.”

A chef presents a small plate of cooked beef.
Bonyeon will feature seven rotating courses.

Retail beef prices reached record highs this fall, and for the time being, the restaurant is sourcing meat domestically from small Midwestern farms. In the future, the team would like to bring in Kobe beef. In an ideal world, they’d also serve sought-after Hanwoo beef from Korea, but it’s rarely exported and the Parks haven’t yet been able to bring it to Chicago.

In a stark departure from the bright, nearly silent eight-seat dining room at Omakase Yume, Bonyeon is much darker — “slick,” says Kate Park — with upbeat music, a black and gold color palette, and an L-shaped counter where patrons can watch and chat with three chefs as they work. “[It’s] a little bit more fun,” she adds.

When diners think of Asian steakhouses, many typically imagine hibachi-style restaurants. But it appears Bonyeon, as well as restaurants like Holu in Pilsen and an upcoming steakhouse from the team behind Korean American restaurant Perilla, are changing the narrative.

An omakase menu where beef is the star may be new to Chicago, but the style has cropped up in recent years in places like New York City. Still, it appears that Bonyeon’s dedication to the style is singular across the country. If local steak fans decide to bite, the approach could become a full-on phenomenon.

Bonyeon, 651 W. Washington Boulevard, Open 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, Reservations available via Resy.


651 W. Washington Blvd, Chicago, IL 60661 630-967-4752 Visit Website

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