After more than a year of food trucks and temporary pop-ups in Ann Arbor, the Katoi team is ready to launch its permanent brick-and-mortar restaurant in Corktown tonight. Unveiled in a series of private soft openings last week, the restaurant created by chef Brad Greenhill, Courtney Henrietta, and New York billboard designer Philip Kafka, features a modern look with rougher cinderblock walls and a well composed, vegetarian-friendly menu.
Each dish on the menu is a "building block as opposed to an entree," Henrietta tells Eater. "Everything's meant to be shared." Fans can look forward to old favorites like the fried chicken sandwich on the late-night bar menu, as well as khao soi, mussels, and a larb tofu dish that packs heat. The feel is entirely old Katoi but in a more refined setting. "We've been doing really crazy things out of really rugged spaces for a very long time, whether it be a truck or a broken down restaurant in Ann Arbor, but now we finally have some equipment that allows Brad [Greenhill] to do things that he maybe hasn't done before," she says.
The boxy garage-turned-restaurant is designed to impart the Katoi team's philosophy, Henriette explains during a walk-through of the space. The building is divided into three chambers, with patrons entering at the bar set up with around nine seats and standing room. The center dining area features low booths meant to recall sitting on the floor. A long communal table runs through the center with views of the open kitchen.
"We have our bar altar and you have the kitchen altar, and both of these things communicate with each other," Henrietta says. "Our bar staff and our kitchen staff are really close and they're constantly riffing off one another and collaborating, so the middle is really the child between the two." While the restaurant continues to follow a standard pay structure for, Katoi has created an altar in the dining room where customers may "leave offerings for the kitchen" — whether it be tips or a chocolate bar.
Photographers Chris and Michelle Gerard took a tour of the space ahead of the soft openings series. Take a peek at the transformed space in the gallery below.
The Dining Room
Katoi is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday and 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday through Saturday. Bar menu only after 10 p.m. DJ sets on Saturday nights.