Chefs imbue Zakuro Thai Sushi Cuisine's intimate dining room with the aromas of traditional Thai noodle dishes, fried rice, and seven types of curry. For dinner, they craft specialties such as deep-fried soft-shell crab with basil sauce, served with vegetables and a choice of white, brown, or fried rice. At the sushi counter, chefs hand-roll maki including the Hollywood, layering spicy tuna and shrimp tempura inside kelp or soybean paper and topping the bundle with fried onions and seared Cajun albacore. The softly lit restaurant boasts wood floors, Asian figurines, and tall, twig-like accents that are lit from beneath, casting spindly shapes on the walls like two saplings making shadow puppets.
Maki Sushi & Noodle Shop earned city-worthy praise in both the Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune for the elegant simplicity that characterizes both its menu and décor. Japanese letters run down the floor-to-ceiling murals that color the bright eatery’s mint-green walls, flanking a sushi bar centerpiece where more than 20 seats rest courtside as master chefs prepare soft shell crab, homemade dumplings, and crispy rangoons. They also churn out fresh sashimi and dozens of signature maki rolls including Crazy Crunch filled with tuna, salmon, yellowtail and tempura crunch topped with wasabi mayo and unagi sauce. The clean lines of the eatery’s exposed brick pillars and polished wood-grain floors spill over into lunchtime bento boxes, which compartmentalize protein such as crabmeat fried rice or chicken katsu. Delicate flutes of martini glasses filled with fruit-infused takes on the classic cocktail. Equipped with a glass-enclosed wine cellar, Maki Sushi’s lower level lounge plays host to private get-togethers, corporate happy hours, and very short games of hide-and-seek.
Chefs at Kampai Japanese Steak House man their hibachis with skill, flipping and twirling their gleaming utensils as they carefully cook meats such as filet mignon, lobster tail, and shrimp. As customers' meals sizzle before their eyes, chefs keep them entertained by telling jokes and anecdotes about their first job as a baton twirler. The floating sushi bar is no less inventive. Wooden boats stocked with fresh pieces of sushi and tiny shuffleboard teams float in an open tank from which diners can pluck their choice of morsels (the sushi menu also offers made-to-order options). Although the food preparation is entertaining, it does not upstage the taste. Kampai's head chef, Suki, has traveled extensively to search out quality ingredients for his sauces, in which he strives to blend Eastern cuisine with worldwide flavors.
Tatami Restaurant's chefs whorl fresh fish, colorful veggies, and chewy rice into more than 60 types of sushi for in-house dining adventures and elegant catered meals. Diners graze on a bounty of traditional and fusion-inspired sushi combinations, many of which bear names evoking the city on the lake and its flavorful denizens, including the signature Kansaku roll, which shares its name with Tatami Restaurant's sister restaurant and salutes the eatery with shrimp tempura, freshwater eel, and a ribbon of cream cheese. The 10-piece Lake Shore Drive roll employs outrageous flavor tactics to upstage Chicago’s beach vistas, pulling out all the stops with a combination of yellowtail, cilantro, and spicy mayo. Diners craving a hot, hearty meal can savor traditional Japanese entrees such as chicken yaki soba or tofu katsu with sweet chili.
The chefs at Nobori Sushi create authentic Japanese food for lunch and dinner and build party trays packed with rolls and sushi. Their lengthy menu includes appetizers such as sea urchin shots topped with quail egg and ponzu sauce, along with noodle dishes, tempuras, and teriyakis. As the name of this casual restaurant would suggest, the star of the show is the sushi. Dragon rolls share the plate with rainbow, dynamite, and caterpillar rolls. Soybean paper hugs a select subset of rolls, appeasing the taste buds of those who dislike seaweed or are addicted to legumes.
Eclectic ingredients, including eel and mint leaf, fill more than 30 maki rolls and helped earn Wildfish a spot on Gayot's list of the 10 best Chicago sushi restaurants in 2012. One roll pairs spicy salmon, fried tuna, and pico de gallo, and another mixes spicy mayo and sweet soy sauce with Alaskan king crab and a splash of Bacardi 151. Filet mignon and lobster sizzle in the tropical-hued dining room with walls of red, green, and gold and bamboo that sways against the ceiling. Glasses of imported Japanese beer and sake clink together in high-backed booths that offer privacy during dates and meals out with a parrot that only knows how to say your medical records.