Inside Kumiko, Mixing Bespoke Cocktail Tastings With Japanese Flavors in the West Loop

Kumiko serves up drinks like the Sea Flower.

The hotly anticipated bar has finally arrived

Kumiko co-owner Noah Sandoval knows that Japanese culture is important to his new West Loop bar, but his partners, including bartender Julia Momose and wife Cara Sandoval, aren’t attempting to open an izakaya. The drinks and food skew toward Japanese influences, but it’s Momose’s skills that define Kumiko as she interacts with customers at the eight-seat bar. From there, she’ll concoct bespoke cocktails within the main attraction: a five-course cocktail tasting menu served with small bites from the kitchen at 630 W. Lake Street.

The omakase-style cocktail selection costs $130 and is only available at the bar. Customers at the 22-seat dining room can order individual items. Momose is an acclaimed bartender who worked at the Aviary and GreenRiver. After GreenRiver, she joined up with the Sandovals at Oriole, their Michelin-starred restaurant that’s right around the corner from Kumiko. Momose’s husband, photographer Sammy Faze — who also worked at the Drinkingbird in Lincoln Park — will also work at Kumiko. Noah Sandoval joked that being married may be a requisite to working with them, as there’s a history here.

Momose designed the 1,700-square-foot space with help from Alex Dunham of Brokenpress Design + Fabrication. They used mid-century furnishing and woodwork from a Japanese firm, Tanihata Co. Take a look at the photo of the host stand where there’s a pot of tea. Customers are offered some upon arrival as it’s a way the bar can make guests feel more comfortable. Oriole is known for these touches, and it’s not surprising to see the hospitality carry over.

Tour the space and check out a few food items and drinks below. Kumiko, which offers Chicagoans one of the city’s most unique drinking experiences, is now open in the West Loop.

The host stand, where there’s a pot of tea waiting.

The designer used mid-century furnishings.

A view toward the eight-seat bar.
More seating near the bar.
A shelf with trinkets helps keep the design clean.
Customers at the bar could order a five-course bespoke cocktail tasting that comes with small bites for $130.
Bright One (yuzu, honey, Seedlip Garden 108, Fever Tree ginger beer, herbs)
Sea Flower (Nikka Coffey gin, Drapo Vermouth Bianco, yuzu kosho, kabosu, lime)
Steam buns (pork belly, spicy pickles, herb bouquet)
Japanese milk bread with fermented honey ice cream

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