Sushi restaurant coming to downtown Elgin
Kris Palermo knows that as a tattooed white guy he's not your typical sushi chef trained in the traditional Japanese ways. He'll prove his worth as soon as customers set foot in his upcoming sushi restaurant in downtown Elgin, he said.
Palermo, 31, and his sister Melodi, 37, are opening Kubo Sushi and Sake Lounge at 70 S. Grove Ave. sometime this spring, banking on Palermo's 12 years as a chef at sushi restaurants and Melodi's work in restaurants including the Elgin Public House. Both live in Elgin.
His philosophy -- including making soups and sauces from scratch -- comes from the Japanese chefs he learned from, Palermo said. "I won't waste anything. You use bones for fish broth," he said. "You have to realize this fish died for you. You have to take care of it."
The restaurant will have a full Japanese menu -- sushi, udon soups, teriyaki chicken and more -- with vegetarian and gluten-free options, plus a unique selection of sakes and cocktails. Palermo also will offer dining "omakase" style, a Japanese word that basically means "chef's choice," to customers who want to be surprised and try new things.
"You don't have to order anything. Basically I create a whole meal for you, in your price range," he said.
Palermo worked for about seven years at Sushi House in Wheaton, whose master chef, Chitose Tsutsumi, said Palermo has a humble attitude. "He learned very well. He observed the way, the traditional way, and also authentic and modern style of sushi," said Tsutsumi, a native of Japan. "I wish him best and good luck."
The Palermo siblings said they raised half the capital with a home-equity loan and half from an investor. The space previously held the offices of the Chicago Bandits and is being outfitted with a kitchen by building owner Ben Glunz. There are plans for outdoor dining on the sidewalk in summer.
The work, a long-term investment, has uncovered a few gems, like the original tin ceiling, steel columns and terrazzo tiles, Glunz said. He turned down interest from other prospective tenants -- such as bakeries -- to find ones with the best chance for success, he added.
The siblings moved to Elgin in 2009 with their mother from the San Francisco Bay Area after researching affordable places with historic homes. They said they wanted their restaurant to be in downtown Elgin, which they believe is headed for great things.
"They way Elgin's been picking up, I knew this was the right time to do it," Palermo said.
"Everyone I know is saying, 'We hear Elgin is the next big thing.'"