In a city known for its testosterone-fueled steakhouses, Chicago's Ajasteak has absolutely no interest in flexing its muscles. It possesses a delicate, gentle nature that surely comes from the Asian side of its personality. It also possesses a confidence that could only come from having someone like executive chef Joshua Linton in the kitchen. What a waste it would be if this 29-year-old was merely cranking out the requisite ribeyes, strips and porterhouses. This man has a way with seafood, which he deftly exhibits on the sushi side of Ajasteak's menu and elsewhere. The hamachi guacamole appetizer is incredible. Seafood is often an afterthought on most steakhouse menus, but here it shares the stage with beef.
Make no mistake, the investors behind this venture spare no expense. The highest grades of fish are routinely purchased from Japan's Tsukiji market. And the level of melt-in-your mouth Kobe beef it serves is rarely seen on menus. These points are not lost on Linton, who is self-assured enough to let his products sing. His poise comes from working with famed chef Takashi Yagihashi at Tribute in Detroit, and later with Floyd Cardoz at Tabla in New York City. He also toiled under star chef Jose Andres at Zaytinya and Oyamel in Washington, DC, and as a consultant for Stephen Starr, the genius behind a myriad of restaurants, including Buddakan and Morimoto. Linton learned his lessons well; the influences of all these masters are played out on Ajasteak's menu. Chicago has enough brawny steakhouses. Linton, through Ajasteak, offers another satisfying direction.