What was once one of the best sushi restaurants in Austin will soon receive new life.

Otto Phan was working in relative obscurity five years ago, creating sushi from a small trailer in East Austin. Now, he’s being lauded by as the owner of the Best New Restaurant in Chicago by Chicago Magazine.

The chef graduated from his trailer and opened Kyoten Sushiko at the Mueller development in 2016, but after a couple of years thrilling Austin diners and receiving rave reviews from the Statesman, Phan decided he needed a larger stage if he wanted to achieve some of biggest goals (namely, two Michelin stars), so he moved to Chicago last year. He closed his Austin shop, which had briefly continued to serve lunch, but promised to return when the time was right.

That time is now. Phan has been training chef Sarah Cook in Chicago since January, and in early May the veteran of Lenoir and Sway will reopend Kyoten Sushiko at 4600 Mueller Blvd. #1035. Cook will serve a multi-course omakase dinner (chef’s table) at the small, renovated space that has received a facelift, according to Phan. Dinner will cost $150, inclusive of tax and gratuity.

Phan is famously exacting about his sushi and his vision, so he undoubtedly had high standards for the person to whom he would hand over sole control his Austin restaurant. In her time working with Phan in Chicago, Cook has left a strong and undeniable impression.

“It takes a certain type of vision. You have to have a point of view; you have to have a personality; and you’ve got to have something to say about yourself,” Phan said of the challenge of ostensibly running a sushi restaurant by oneself. “Sarah is a person with that sense of vision. She has excelled in every impossible task I have given her, and she’ll evolve into something better than I can be. She is the protege. She’s not an apprentice. She’ll do things in the future I believe I can’t do.”

Phan says Cook is on the same page as he when it comes to food and will follow a similar ethos and traditional edomae sushi style while also finding a way to branch out on her own. A native of Houston and graduate of Southwestern University, where she studied philosophy and ancient Greek language, Cook calls the opportunity to take over Kyoten Sushiko and learn from Phan a privilege.

“This time in Chicago has provided a lot of clarity and direction, and the Austin space has been undergoing a massive transformation to reflect that,” Cook said. “I’m excited to come home and continue working to give Austin the best omakase experience possible.”

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From 2016: Restaurant review: Sublime sushi and a surreal night at Kyoten Sushiko
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Austin360 Dining Guide: 2017(#14) | 2016 (#7)