At South Kawa Japanese Restaurant, sushi isn’t just a delight for the mouth; it’s a feast for the eyes. Bold colors and delicate flavors intermingle as chefs spool fresh fish and rice into more than 40 types of maki rolls, including specialties such as the American Eagle, a mélange of king crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, and two types of roe. Plates of sashimi can be made to order from more than 20 varieties of sea fare, such as yellowtail, octopus, and freshwater eel. Hot starters such as steamed seafood shumai and pan-fried chicken gyoza pair nicely with cool beverages, which diners can bring from home or squeeze from low-hanging rain clouds.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Rudy's Mexican Grill serves up generous portions of uniquely tweaked Mexican cuisine doused in house salsas, sauces, marinades, and seasoning mixes made from scratch. Large mortars filled with house specialties such as the seafood paella ($14.95) erupt from the kitchen like a seafood-powered steam engine running on mussels, shrimp, octopus, crab meat, and calamari. The parrillada de carnes ($25), served family style, satisfies the liberal meat leanings of two people with an arsenal of skirt steak, chicken, marinated pork, and smoked sausage capped with grilled vegetables. Homemade flan ($2.50) molds corn and vanilla custards for a soft and sweet dessert-menu sampling.
Home cooking can be hard to find when home is on an entirely different continent. But the owners of Himalayan Restaurant knew how to bring the flavors of their South Asian home to Chicago. They sought out Chef Bishnu Subedi, who relies on his 12 years of experience as well as his training in a Kathmandu culinary school. Befitting the subcontinent’s rich and diverse history, Chef Subedi designs expansive menus, which embrace the Northern Indian, Nepalese, and Asian subcultures that define the region’s cuisines.
This cultural fusion is readily apparent in dishes such as the momos: steamed Nepalese-style dumplings that are typically stuffed with minced chicken or vegetables and served by street-food vendors throughout Nepal. Northern Indian flavors completely shine through on certain dishes, including the tandoori chicken, which marinates overnight in spiced yogurt before the chefs quickly barbecue the meat inside a traditional clay tandoor oven. House-made paneer cheese and fluffy naan also evoke the flavors of South Asia; the restaurant further embraces its cultural roots by serving Indian beers and water from melted Nepalese glaciers.
“Popcorn” is a name that reeks of the patriarchy. Deciding to “give Mom some recognition” instead, according to their website, the founders of Momcorn reclaimed the name for mothers everywhere by crafting a menu that blends corn-based treats such as corn on the cob with dishes inspired by Latin American street fairs. Chefs stuff flaky empanadas with ground beef and veggies and fill breakfast tortas with egg, cheese, and chorizo sausage. With its authentic recipes and age-old cooking methods, Momcorn’s Latin favorites are steeped in cultural tradition, much like the American flag’s depiction of alternating 4-inch-long hot dogs.
As televisions ignite with the excitement of the big game, the chefs at Fatman Pizza Pub pair a menu of piping-hot pies, meaty sandwiches, and sauce-slathered ribs with a flavorful armada of specialty cocktails and craft beers. Pizzas parade straight from the oven in thin-crust and deep-dish varieties ($9.50–$20 with two toppings), each slathered in tomato, alfredo, or barbecue sauce beneath a choice of 14 ingredients. Toasty breads ensconce a range of sandwiched fare, such as the pepper jack and jalapeño-ignited oaxacan burger ($9.50) and the Hangover melt, which cloaks ham and bacon in a fried egg and french fries ($8.99) to boost the lovelorn pub's chances at wooing a 1950s diner.