Asian cuisine takes an experimental twist at this sophisticated restaurant’s three locations. Learn about this popular new dining-made-social hotspot and the minds behind it.
When a small group of restaurateurs opened Shakou Sushi in Libertyville, in 2013, they were just testing the waters of Asian cuisine. The experiment has paid off, with big results. In 2015, the team led by Aleks Dupor opened its first outpost at 312 W. Main St., in St. Charles, followed shortly by a second outpost at 121 W. Main St., in Barrington.
Building on their success, Dupor and business partners Ed Hartigan and Adam Garvanian are putting finishing touches on a fourth site in Park Ridge. That outlet is expected to go live in late March.
Shakou Barrington accommodates about 200 diners in a sleek, modern setting on two floors. A rooftop terrace that opens this spring adds another 100 to the seating capacity. Barely a month after opening, it was awarded the Diners’ Choice Award by OpenTable.com.
Each location of Shakou Sushi has the same menu, with a focus on modern Asian cuisine. In Barrington, four skilled sushi chefs complement four kitchen cooks.
“Diners, largely 30- to 50-year-olds, are drawn to the big-city vibe Shakou brings to the suburbs,” says Dupor, who has had 20 years’ experience in the foodservice industry. “We have a welcoming ambiance and friendly, knowledgeable staff whose goal is to bowl over customers by offering a memorable product and dining experience.”
Translated, the name Shakou means “social life,” suggesting an ideal space for families and business colleagues meeting over lunch or dinner.
“Guests rave about our mix of fresh sushi (seafood is delivered daily from some eight suppliers) and warm entrees,” says Dupor. A few Korean dishes, such as beef Bul Go Gi and Bi Bim Bap, add an element of fusion that further broadens the menu’s scope.
Executive Chef Sang Choi, who oversees all three kitchens, pleases guests with an innovative menu of diverse selections designed to provide something for every appetite.
One of the most popular appetizers at the Barrington restaurant is the Seven Spicy Ahi, a dish that features butter-toasted sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, jalapeno, citrus mayonnaise and tobiko (flying fish roe).
Another big draw is the Green Dragon, a signature maki roll featuring shrimp tempura, crab, cucumber and spicy mayonnaise that’s topped with avocado, unagi (eel) sauce, wasabi mayo and sesame seeds.
Superstars on the entree side of the menu include Chilean sea bass and the braised short rib. The latter, Dupor extols, is “out of this world.”
For the landlubber, Shakou offers contemporary versions of some Asian classics including teriyaki, tempura and katsu dishes.
The well-provisioned bar carries domestic and imported wines by the bottle or glass and nearly 20 choices of sake, along with signature cocktails including martinis. Beer drinkers will find a handful of Asian brands as well as craft and major-label beers.
Reservations are encouraged, with space available for private parties and corporate events. Complementary valet parking is available Thursday through Saturday.
On special occasions, diners will find deejays playing recorded music.
Shakou Barrington is open Mon.-Wed. 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thu. to midnight, Fri.-Sat. to 1 a.m., and Sun. 4 to 10 p.m.